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Area retail industry looking to bounce back from pandemic

Northeast Ohio


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Unemployment numbers in Ohio are on the rise for the first time since early in the COVID-19 pandemic.

CLEVELAND — The unemployment rate in Ohio is again headed in the wrong direction. It’s now up to 5 percent, despite the economy opening back up.

Stephen Kislow is the CEO of Firebirds. Like others, they can’t find staff. 

“We are financially incentivizing right now, essentially all levels of leadership to help us get staffed up to give our guests the experience that they deserve,” Kislow explains.

Despite the offers being made by employers and the “Now Hiring” signs all over neighborhoods, unemployment numbers in Ohio are on the rise for the first time since early in the COVID-19 pandemic. Some employers have cut jobs, but the bigger issue is workers being unhappy. 

“The labor market, for a variety of reasons, is becoming more picky about the type of employment that they want to return to,” says Case Western Reserve University associate professor Michael Goldberg.

On social media, some businesses have been forced to close early for the day as employees quit their jobs on the spot. The leisure and hospitality industry has the highest quit rate at 5.3%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That means employers have to offer more to keep workers on the job. 

“Folks want more,” explains Goldberg. “They want the flexibility that many of them had during the pandemic. What are employers doing for flexibility?”

But many unemployed workers may not be able to hold out much longer as expanded unemployment benefits run out in Ohio on June 26, meaning a return to work may be necessary, whether ideal or not. 

“That is going to cause people to go back to the market as people get weened off those government benefits,” says Goldberg. However, that won’t fix the labor market overnight as many workers continue to hold out and ask employers to do more.

“As the economy continues to rebound, this dance between employers and workers is going to continue,” predicts Goldberg.

More than ever, the job market has shown it’s about more than just increasing pay. People really are seeking to be happy on the job as well. The pandemic has made it much easier to get that point across.


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