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SAN DIEGO — Despite high wages and perks like free meals, a North Park eatery has kept its hours cut short because it doesn’t have enough employees to cover the late shifts.

“We have a ‘help wanted’ sign out front; seems like nobody is even coming in to drop off resumes,” said Solomon Bagels manager Joey Wagner.

And he’s not alone. As most business are set to fully reopen June 15, they’ve traded one struggle for another. Once forced to open with limited capacity and almost no staff, they’re now faced with more customers and no applicants.

“People are scrambling to find workers and workers now have the upper hand, so basically everyone is taking longer to assess their different opportunities,” said Dr. Lynne Reaser, chief economist at Point Loma Nazarene University.

She says many industries are feeling this in some way but hospitality and restaurants in particular are really struggling, forced to lure people back with bonuses and higher wagers, but in the service industry still collecting COVID-related benefits – perks many not be enough. 

“Workers have actually seen their income supported by various state and federal programs,” Reaser said. “There’s an extra $300 a federal unemployment benefits that will last until Labor Day. So people are taking their time to find the best offer. So suddenly there’s this big mismatch between all these job opportunities and people trying to figure out what their next life step should be.”

Couple that with already sky-high food prices, and it’s the customer that will ultimately pay the price. Particularly for the restaurant industry who are now really facing cost increases that’s coming at a very bad time and they’re also facing the labor issue.” 

For smaller businesses like Solomon Bagels, where offering higher wages isn’t possible, they’re hoping their reputation will be enough to get people in the door.

“It’s a pretty solid place to work,” Wagner said. “It’s just been hard with not having enough team members right now that will work.”