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Businesses continue to deal with worker shortage

Updated: May. 7, 2021 at 10:21 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The Cake Studio in the 5th Avenue Mall knows how to satisfy a sweet tooth. Champagne cake, red velvet cake and carrot cake are the most popular sellers.

Its owners expect it to be very busy this weekend.

“We have for Mother’s Day Weekend, we have 38-40 cakes going out in one day,” said co-owner Bill Waltz. “We have two people working on those cakes. We actually had to stop taking orders.”

Waltz needs a pastry chef, or baker. He also needs someone to handle front end sales, and a barista.

Right now the Cake Studio has three employees, where before the pandemic close to 10 people worked there.

“Hiring right now is very difficult,” Waltz said. “We get 25-30 applicants, and nobody shows up for an interview.”

The Cake Studio is not alone in trying to find help.

Alaska’s News Source reached out to about a dozen businesses around Anchorage, and all of them have a similar story.

Denny’s Restaurant on Debarr Road has immediate openings for 20 people in all positions, including management. One manager, who wanted to remain anonymous, told Alaska’s News Source the restaurant only has about a fourth of the staff it needs. Many employees work six days a week.

“Unfortunately there’s no easy answer,” said Mouhcine Guettabi, associate dean of economics at University of Alaska Anchorage’s Institute of Social and Economic Research, though he thinks he knows one reason for the worker shortage.

“There’s the big elephant in the room which is federal benefits are much, much higher than what they had been in the past,” he said.

The federal government currently pays an extra $300 a month to unemployed people on top of what they receive from their state.

South Carolina joined Montana on Thursday in ending federal pandemic unemployment benefits for its residents in June. Montana will offer unemployed workers $1,200 to return to work with money paid from President Biden’s Coronavirus relief package. Guettabi believes Alaska should consider something similar.

Meanwhile, employees at businesses around Anchorage and Alaska continue to work more, hoping relief in the form of new workers will join them shortly.

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