Signs of the times: Local jobs go unfilled as labor shortage persists

Sign at Edmonds’ Crush Footwear

We’ve all read the headlines-

  • Amazon needs 12,000 more workers in the Seattle area
  • Fed Ex re-routes 600,000 packages a day – not enough workers
  • Washington state restaurants/hotels had 40,000 job openings this summer

In Edmonds, “help wanted” signs still seem to pop up almost every block. Shubert Ho, co-owner of Salt & Iron, the Mar-Ket, Fire & the Feast and other eateries, told My Edmonds News he still needs 50 -100 more employees to bring his workforce back to full strength. Before COVID, the restaurant group employed more than 400 people. Ho says that this summer, the Washington State Hospitality Association reported members needed 40,000 cooks, wait staff, clerks, and housekeepers. What’s at stake, he added, is the next generation of hospitality workers.

“It’s just horrible everywhere”, said Greg Urban, president and CEO of the Edmonds Chamber of Commerce. Businesses are “finally able to operate and the owners are going to put in the hours yourself or not be able to staff,” Urban added.

Local business faces tough competition to fill jobs from big corporations. The Economic Alliance of Snohomish County just posted a hiring notice from Amazon. The company is offering “an average starting pay of $18 per hour, sign-on bonuses of up to $3,000, and an additional $3 per hour for certain shifts in many locations.”

The online giant wants to hire 150,000 people nationwide for seasonal holiday jobs at a starting salary that local businesses have trouble matching, and few can offer signing bonuses or premium pay.

Local jobs are going begging. Restaurants have shortened hours because they couldn’t hire enough staff; shippers — Fed Ex and Amazon among them — need more warehouse workers and drivers; my bank closed the drive-up window (not enough staff).

Edmonds Bakery sign

From the Edmonds Bakery, which put this sign in the window, to C’est La Vie, to McDonald-McGarry Insurance, to the Town of Woodway, and the City of Edmonds (which has openings for 25 full-time employees in city hall or with the police), there are openings.

Sign outside Comstock Jewelers

Erin Comstock told us that their jewelry shop has an opening for part-time or full-time employee.

The Snohomish County unemployment rate now hovers at 5.6%. It went from all-time low of 2.3% in April, 2019 and skyrocketed to a record high of 19.3% in April 2020. One career website claims it has 5,000 jobs available in the county, ranging from content writer, to front desk receptionist, to marijuana bud tender.

Salish Sea Brewing’s new Boat House Taproom

Salish Sea Brewing’s Jeff and Erika Barnett are about to open a new location in the Harbor Square Business Complex space formerly housing American Brewing – the Boat House Taproom. There are still six open jobs to fill — bar and kitchen staff. “We’re all in the ‘how do we hire and how do we afford’ to hire” dilemma, Jeff Barnett told us. He estimates those jobs will pay between $20-$25 an hour, plus tips.

Jeff Barnett of Salish Sea Brewing

Barnett points out another issue. A key employee has a new baby, and the family gets a state COVID economic child subsidy, which he says, basically provides a state-funded paternity leave. So, his employee is now working just 15 hours a week.

Nationwide, the Associated Press reports that “Americans are quitting (their jobs) in droves.” More than 4 million left their jobs in August, the highest level in 20 years, the AP says.  Fear of the delta COVID variant is a part of that exodus. Workers also have more clout, demanding higher pay or leaving to find better salaries and better benefits. Jeff Bennett said COVID changed our mental state, adding “people do get beat up, we’ve all been on edge.”

Snohomish County government, facing its own jobs crunch, is trying to make sure it retains critical front-line workers. Two thousand of them will get $1,250 in bonus hazard pay; the money coming from federal American Rescue Plan funds. A similar bonus has been suggested for Edmonds front-line crews in the public works department.

Paul Turek, an economist for the State Employment Security Department, warns that “the uncertainty around the delta variant is likely to result in an uneven labor market recovery.”

Some economists predict COVID will continue to play havoc with our lives and jobs well into 2022, which may mean these signs of the times will be with us for months.

— By Bob Throndsen

5 Replies to “Signs of the times: Local jobs go unfilled as labor shortage persists”

  1. Seattle CEO Dan Price (@DanPriceSeattle) sums it up quite well:

    “If you post an entry-level job, you can’t require any experience. If you require experience, you need to pay more than entry-level pay. I don’t know when we got away from this. But you can’t require 10 years experience for $35k and complain “no one wants to work.”” (Sep30)

    “Workers had an awakening during the pandemic: They won’t put up with lousy pay, poor conditions and emotional abuse from their job anymore. But companies are ignoring that revolution and want to go back to “normal.” That’s why there are still 10 million jobs open. Pretty simple” (Oct1)


    1. Pat, excellent point. Stimmy checks threw water on the economic ladder and the first rungs got really slippery. Our system has [inadvertently?] made having kids, a home, a career not as attractive. A generation is more inclined towards mediocrity, and it’s not fair to them. A dog, a camper van are more achievable goals, and a lot are happy with that. I can’t blame them.


  2. I don’t believe people left jobs because of the “delta variant”. How about people getting sick of mask wearing because they no longer want to wear masks for 8-10 hours a day. They are tired of not breathing in fresh air even at work. Maybe some are even quitting because they are moving out of state. Can’t blame those ones at all!!! What I can’t figure out is (beyond the childcare welfare credit) how are people surviving with no income? It doesn’t add up. Prices for everything on the Rise but people quitting their jobs. Clearly some of these stats have to include first responders leaving their jobs (nationwide numbers).


  3. If there is plenty of demand (people are wanting to sit and eat), raise prices until that levels out, then raise the salary of your employee until that levels out. My business adapted to this with no PPP. I doubled my prices for products last year. Part of that is inflation, part of it is the processor/silicon problems (supply chain), but the costs must be passed on. The issue is that Shubert Ho nearly *doubled* his capacity, gamed COVID to add seating at his restaurants. I can understand that desire because last winter everything shut down, and the summer before that the Trump economy had things booming. It’s hard to estimate the market. There is a business cycle coming up. Shubert Ho opened new eateries leading into a business cycle.


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