Washington hospitality industry staring down shortage of nearly 90,000 workers

Jun 8, 2021, 4:51 PM
Hospitality industry Washington...
Ivar's in Seattle. (AP)

With businesses finally able to reopen, many in Washington have continued to struggle to fill open jobs, particularly in the hospitality industry.

Businesses left to shoulder burden of enforcing state’s relaxed mask rules

As KIRO Radio reported Monday, Puget Sound-based businesses like Amazon, Costco, and Starbucks have all raised their minimum wages to at least $15 an hour to lure in new employees. Meanwhile, those in the retail sector have found little demand for jobs.

For the hospitality industry, the end of the pandemic has bled directly into a brand new crisis.

“I feel like we were leaving one crisis and now having another,” Washington Hospitality Association CEO Anthony Anton told KIRO Radio’s Gee and Ursula Show. “We absolutely have a workforce shortage crisis occurring as we move forward.”

According to Anton, the hospitality industry in Washington is currently short roughly 90,000 workers.

And while Anton points out that he’d “rather be here and open than to not be open,” it’s still leaving employers uncertain in terms of how they’ll be able to resume normal operations when the state officially reopens on June 30. It’s also a situation that he expects will “carry on for a couple years” at least.

On the upside, he also believes that because this shortage is creating a “worker’s market,” people currently on unemployment will eventually find well-paying jobs with more businesses competing for their services.

‘Quite the conundrum’ as WA businesses struggle to find workers

“It’ll be a good time to be a worker with lots of choices,” Anton said.

He also hopes that as the economic impact from the pandemic continues to soften, the state will reinstate a job search requirement for those on unemployment as a way to push people back out into the workforce.

“I think when that happens, it will really signify to those on unemployment, ‘I need to start looking at these (jobs) because people are offering, and I’m not going to be allowed to stay here,'” he described.

Listen to the Gee and Ursula Show weekday mornings from 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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Washington hospitality industry staring down shortage of nearly 90,000 workers