Although the state’s unemployment rate of 8.1% remains high, relative to other states, it’s not for a lack of available positions.
In Middletown, one of several FedEx locations held a job fair Thursday. The demand for labor is not just limited to them. It’s affecting businesses big and small.
Serving up authentic tacos in a food truck across the street from the Middletown FedEx location, the Ramirez family works hard. This includes the owner’s mother in-law, 70-year-old Yvonne Mejias.
“She’s inside working like a 17-year old,” said Lesandro Ramirez, who owns the Merengue & Red Taco Bar.
Ramirez says family members have been recruited because they can’t find employees.
“Probably about six weeks ago, we put out the applications and nobody’s grabbing them,” said Ramirez.
The state has offered $1,000 bonuses for some who return to work and has reinstated the search for work requirement to receive unemployment benefits. Still, the challenge of finding qualified help is widespread. The Connecticut Business and Industry Association (CBIA) says they’ve seen this in virtually every business sector.
“We hear from businesses every day, All across the state and it’s the exact same problem. I just can’t find the people I need right now,” said CBIA Vice President of Government Affairs Eric Gjede.
The CBIA says there are a variety of reasons why. This includes extra unemployment benefits, the fear of returning to work, and a need for child care. Economist Dr. Brian Marks, a senior lecturer at the University of New Haven, has seen this same trend and says there’s no easy fix.
“It’s not just simply a binary switch. We’re out of the pandemic, things go back to normal,” Marks said.
Among the large companies seeking help is FedEx. It hopes to recruit 1,500 workers for five Connecticut locations. FedEx says this is partially due to the increase in e-commerce which Marks says was primed to take off before the pandemic.
“We witnessed, because of the pandemic, an acceleration of the structural transformation of our economy,” said Marks, noting a shift from traditional retail to internet shopping.
As the economy reopens however, there is a demand to serve, and for the Ramirez family there is only one way to accommodate.
“(Our) business is supposed to be run by employees that we hire but right now it’s strictly family right now,” lamented Ramirez.
Ramirez is helping out in the food truck as much as he can in addition to his other job at Middlesex Hospital.