From hotels to retailers, Chicago’s staff shortage crisis persists – and it’s affecting customers – CBS Chicago


CHICAGO (CBS) – Our bars and restaurants aren’t the only ones affected by an ongoing labor shortage – other businesses across Chicago are taking a hit that’s already affecting customers.

As CBS 2’s Tara Molina reported, businesses, from hotels to retailers and beyond, have felt the pinch. They’re finally back after a tough year and a half, but with this shortage of workers, many have said they’re capping occupancy rates – and still can’t open at full capacity – because they don’t have everything. you just don’t need people to do it.

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They are not alone.

You’ve probably come across businesses with shorter hours and higher prices, and which are closed more days of the week.

“So it has a variety of implications,” said Rob Karr, president and CEO of the Illinois Retail Merchants Association.

These are just a few of the changes you may have already noticed, or will notice, due to the labor shortage.

“We just hear it’s a problem across the board,” Karr said.

“Fifty percent of our members nationwide can’t fill some of the job openings they have,” said Mark Grant, state director of the National Federation of Independent Businesses.

These are continuous openings, and an ongoing shortage, we are told, is affecting young and old here in Chicago. Business leaders said retailers in the region have already been forced to make changes.

“What if you can’t be open for as many hours as you want?” This will reduce your bottom line, ”Grant said.

This is just another part of a bigger hit on the end result.

“We don’t see, you know, two and a half to 3 million people a day going through downtown,” Karr said. “You know, tourism levels are nowhere near where they were before the pandemic.”

It also takes a significant stake in an industry already hit by the pandemic – hotels.

“It was devastating,” said Michael Jacobson, president of the Illinois Hotel and Lodging Association.

Jacobson said staffing issues were seen at all hotels and some have had to curtail their activities as a result.

Jacobson said that despite new incentives and full benefits, hotels are still struggling statewide.

“We had about a third of our workforce – over 20,000 hotel workers – out of work,” he said.

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He said many have found other jobs, and now some hotels in the area that are in high demand again simply cannot accommodate it anymore.

“We still face staffing issues in both frontline hourly and managerial positions,” he said. “This has led some hotels to state that they have to limit room sales on certain nights because they do not have enough staff to accommodate 100% occupancy.”

Jacobson said the association has organized recruiting events – and noted that one can build a career in the hospitality industry.

“We have organized several recruitment events in recent months and we are constantly striving to inform job seekers that a career in a hotel has great benefits and growth opportunities,” he said. “It’s not just a dead end job.”

He also said hotels have not been a major source of the spread of COVID-19 since the summer and have done everything possible to protect workers.

“One important thing to note is that of all the outbreaks reported statewide by the IDPH, since July 1, when the state fully reopened, only two have been reported in hotels,” said Jacobson. “So beyond the vaccination efforts, the extra measures hotels have taken to protect workers and guests are obviously effective in keeping everyone safe. There are 39 other categories / types of places and workplaces that have experienced a higher number of outbreaks than hotels. “

Meanwhile, Molina asked Karr if he could consider a timeline for ending the worker shortage and getting back to normalcy.

“I could make a lot of money, Tara, if I knew the answer to that question,” Karr replied.

Vaccination requirements are also at stake here, as nationally, we are told there has been a reluctance to apply for jobs that will require vaccination.

In Chicago, many companies are still interpreting the vaccine mandate to see how it plays out.

Jacobson said many member hotel companies are working to prepare for the COVID-19 vaccination mandate announced by President Joe Biden – some offering cash incentives for employees to get vaccinated, and some bringing vaccination clinics into hotels.

At the end of the day, businesses are in a Catch022 because they want to make up for the losses of the past eighteen months, but they don’t have the people to operate at full capacity, especially as the holiday season approaches.

The concern we heard on Thursday is that people won’t want to deal with changes in schedules and customer service, so they’ll just turn to online retailing – something that could kill the small businesses that have been most affected.

CBS 2 is committed to Work for Chicago, putting you in touch every day with information that you or a loved one might need on the job market and helps you remove obstacles to your return to work.

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We will continue to uncover information every day to help this community get back to work, until the jobs crisis passes. CBS 2 has several useful items here on our website, including an overview of specific companies that are hiring and information from the state on how best to file for unemployment benefits while waiting.

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