Winter job market shortages hint toward increased staffing shortages for summer

Winter job market shortages portend rough summer tourism season
Published: Jan. 23, 2022 at 5:29 PM AKST|Updated: Jan. 24, 2022 at 8:00 AM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The restaurant hospitality business struggled last summer with limited staff and limited hours of operation.

Co-Founder and CEO of Anchorage’s 49th State Brewing Company David McCarthy remembers interactions with frustrated tourists last season who struggled to find dining.

“They would literally yell at me and say, to me ‘Well where am I supposed to go and eat” right?” McCarthy said. “Everything is closed...The answer was, I just don’t know anymore. You know, you’re just going to have to go by case by case and call all these businesses,”

McCarthy’s restaurant was one of numerous Anchorage restaurant locations that found themselves struggling to fill job positions last summer, leaving tables without customers.

“We, unfortunately, for the majority of the summer had to close down on Monday and Tuesday and that was related to a significant staff shortage,” McCarthy said.

He says this resulted in the restaurant losing hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue, during what is traditionally their busiest time of the year. McCarthy said that during the summer tourism season, their sales volume doubles.

Executive Director for the Center of Economic Development at the University of Alaska Anchorage Nolan Klouda said that with a job market still tight this winter, the hospitality industry could be seeing a sequel this summer.

“I think that we will probably see a more, maybe a more, intensified version of it,” Klouda said. “Just because of how, just because how much extra employment we need in the summers in Alaska.”

Klouda said that summer brings tens of thousands of jobs into Anchorage every year from the tourism industry to construction laborers.

“Any kind of workforce shortages that you see the rest of the year just become a lot more magnified during those summer months,” Klouda said.

McCarthy said they have seasonal staff come in and help out at his restaurant. However, even with seasonal staff returning in the summer, it is still uncertain how the summer months will go.

“People are still not coming back to work. They’re still not applying for jobs. I still can’t tell you if I’m going to be open seven days a week, but I’m going to try stay open seven days a week in the summer,” McCarthy said.

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