Restaurants continue to struggle despite good news in latest jobs report

ATLANTA — At Girl Diver in Atlanta, there’s a sense that the worst of the pandemic is behind us.

But it doesn’t mean the labor shortage is over.

“Things are starting to normalize,” said Richard Tang, owner of Girl Diver. “Currently it’s getting better, but I wouldn’t say it’s back at 100% yet.”

At the New Shake Shack location in Alpharetta, filling a staff opening was a challenge at times too. But raising wages helped before the location opened.

“We’ve raised team member pay about 13% nationwide. So we’re trying to do what we can to get kind of as competitive as we can with the pay, but also great incentives for our teams,” Josh Kalson with Shake Shack said.

The latest jobs report shows jobs are being added faster than economists predicted.

But restaurants have had more ground to make up than most, and hiring staff is still a challenge.


“I think it’s still going to be a challenging year,” Tang said.

Tang told Channel 2′s Matt Johnson that things are better, but he has still more job openings than he would like.

Employers added 678,000 jobs in February, according to the Georgia Department of Labor.

About 79,000 of those jobs are restaurant jobs.

“Not all of our workers have come back. So actually — the availability — workers may be constraining the ability of businesses to add to payrolls,” Kennesaw State University economics professor Roger Tutterow said.

Tutterow said there’s a lot to like about what the jobs report says about the future.

“We’ve really done a good job of digging our way out of the pandemic hole,” Tutterow said.

He said he expects steady growth to continue as there’s hope the spread of COVID-19 will be limited going forward.

“It is clear that we will get right-side-up in terms of employment, likely in the summer months of this year,” Tutterow said.

At Girl Diver, the crowds are back, and Tang is hopeful that he can fill the last 20% of his staff openings soon.

“Things are starting to normalize,” Tang said.