A Portland restaurant owner said job applications are up 50% since unemployment benefits ended. But other restaurants say they’re still scrambling to find workers.

A waitress is taking a customer’s order at a table. There are other customers and another server in the background.
Companies across the US have been slashing opening hours, limiting operations, and raising prices because they can’t find enough workers. Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images

Some restaurant owners in Portland, Oregon, say job applications have boomed since enhanced unemployment benefits ended last week – but other restaurants in states that cut off benefits early say they’re still scrambling to find workers.

Kurt Huffman, who owns restaurant business ChefStable, told Oregon news station KATU News that job applications across his company had risen by about 50% since benefits expired. ChefStable works with 21 restaurants across Portland.

Nate Tilden, who owns restaurants across the city, told KATU that about 12 people had left resumes with his restaurants in one week, compared to about two in the previous nine months.

Some had 18-month gaps in their resumes, he said. “My fear is that folks took an 18-month break and they were on the couch the whole time and now they’re forced to go back into the labor market and it ‘sucks’ and they ‘just want to get paid’ and I fear they’re not going to want to do the actual physical job of working,” Tilden told KATU.

Companies across the US have been slashing opening hours, limiting operations, and raising prices because they can’t find enough workers.

Some business owners blamed the labor shortage on enhanced federal unemployment benefits introduced in March 2020, such as the $US300 ($AU410) weekly supplemental payments through the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation.

“I feel like most folks now want to stay home and take advantage of that unemployment and continue to collect without working,” Yolanda Garcia, co-owner of Cafe Elk Grove in Elk Grove, California, told Insider.

But workers say that it’s low pay, bad benefits, and a lack of flexible hours that are causing them to quit their jobs in droves.

Some companies in states that cut off the benefits months early are still struggling to find staff.

Florida stopped the benefits in late June. Mark Wilson, CEO of Florida’s Chamber of Commerce, said that this would “help fill thousands of these vacancies and aid in ending the worker shortage throughout the state.”

But the owner of an Italian restaurant in Winter Haven, Florida, told The Ledger in early September that he was still struggling to find staff, causing the restaurant to cut the number of reservations it takes on weekends, hire workers still at high school, and get current staff to work overtime.

Meanwhile, at least three Chick-fil-A restaurants in Alabama closed their dining rooms because they didn’t have enough employees to keep them open, and two more started shutting early “due to extremely short staffing.” The restaurants made the announcements in late August – more than two months after the state cut off benefits.

A Latin American restaurant in Texas, a state that ended benefits early on June 26, said that it’s renting three robots for $US15 ($AU21) a day each to serve guests as it struggles to find staff.

The Oak Ridger reported that companies in Tennessee were still struggling to find workers, two months after the state cut off benefits.

“I think we have far more people staying home because they’re dealing with health problems and kids home from school than we do for extended benefits,” Jeff Yarbro, a Tennessee state senator, told the publication.