Summer job market could be hit or miss, experts say; restaurants among several looking for help

Central Indiana News

INDIANAPOLIS — J.R. Jani owns the local Subway on West 10th Street.

He’s owned the location for 15 years but says last year was tough to stay in business.

“It’s been a challenge to not only hire folks, but to keep the doors open,” Jani said. “We are working, I am working. My wife is working. My family is working. We have worked more, ourselves, in the past year than we’ve worked in the last 15 years.”

Jani says his family and current employees are working to fill the gaps of vacant positions. Together, they’re working longer hours and taking on more responsibilities.

Not too far from Ben Davis High School, one of the biggest high schools in Indianapolis, Jani says getting applications isn’t the challenge, it’s mostly finding the right candidates.

Jani says it’s been difficult finding applicants who are motivated, want to work and want to stay at the location for a longer period of time.

Along with personality traits, Jani says there’s even more competition, which is hindering the search.

“I can pay people to work 40 hours a week, the problem is you get a little bit more money sitting at home right now,” he said. “So we’re competing against the unemployment office.”

Meanwhile, local economist Kyle Anderson with IU Kelley School of Business in Indianapolis, says teens and college students should take advantage of the summer job market.

“Those that are opening back up, they’ve had a hard time finding workers,” he said. “So I think they’re going to rely on those kind of summer workers a lot this summer. It’s going to be a really good job market.”

Anderson says industries like restaurants, retail and hospitality, are looking to need more help. That’s as more customers get vaccinated and start to feel more comfortable going out again.

While it’s creating a demand for services, Anderson says there’s little help to meet it. That’s as many businesses lost employees during last year’s lockdown.

“A lot of these workers aren’t just waiting around, hoping to be called back,” said Anderson. “They’ve gone on to do something else. They’re working in different industries, or they’ve gone back to school or other obligations. So there’s really a shortage in those workers in those industries.”

Meanwhile, Anderson says internships are looking to be far and few this summer. He says it’s a trend he’s seeing not only across the country, but even at home as his daughter prepares to come back from college this summer.

“She wasn’t able to find a professional internship,” he said. “She wants to go into computer science, but she is able to apply for some retail jobs and all that, so she’s experiencing exactly what we’re talking about.”

Anderson says companies may be hesitant to hire for internships, or positions, due to still being out of the office or operating with workplace capacity limits.

Either way, Anderson’s advice, for those looking for work, is to seize the opportunity and don’t lose hope if it’s not your dream position. He says the way summer looks to shape up, it could mean a brighter future ahead for the economy.

“When folks have a little extra money to spend and those jobs are filling up, it’s really going to be good for everybody. So I think it’s a really positive sign about the economic outlook for the coming year.”

As for Jani, he says he continues to search and hire candidates. Applications are online but can also be turned in to his store.

“We just hired a new team member last week,” said Jani, “She’s 16 years old and it’s her first job.”

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