Businesses struggling with labor shortage, Houstonians struggling to find work

HOUSTON – Federal unemployment benefits, for people financially struggling during the pandemic, ended Labor Day Weekend.

A Houston restaurant owner is hopeful the end of employment benefits will help the local economy rebound.

When Irma Galvan spoke to KPRC 2 about five months ago, her namesake restaurant of more than 30 years was experiencing a labor shortage. Galvan said business was slow and 13 of her 17 employees had left her downtown Houston restaurant.

“It was very bad and I was feeling very down but we started getting more business, people started coming in and we started hiring more people,” she said.

Galvan said the delta variant is now eating away at business. Still, Galvan said she’s been able to employ 10 new workers with an added incentive.

“We are paying our people more,” Galvan said. “We had to do that in order to keep our people and in order to have more employees we had to raise up the prices on their wages.”

The Houston restauranteur is hopeful the restaurant industry will see an increase in job applicants since federal unemployment benefits ended Labor Day weekend. Texas was among several states that opted out of federal programs in June. The Texas Work Commission had provided additional weeks of financial aid, which is coming to an end as well.

Steven Craig, an economics professor at the University of Houston said the economy might not rebound so quickly.

“I guess I’ll expect some labor supply response, right, I think there will be some more workers but I don’t think there’s gonna be a big surge at all,” Craig said.

The state’s current unemployment rate is 6.2%, which dropped from 6.9% last February and March, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Recent Cypress-Creek High School graduate Bevin Covington said finding a job hasn’t been easy, though many industries said they’re desperate for workers. The 19-year-old said he’s been handing out dozens of resumes and filling out more than a hundred job applications since May.

“It definitely doesn’t feel like a shortage,” Covington said. “They keep saying they need help. I’m willing to help but I don’t get any response.”

Covington’s dream job is to work in the mortgage or title industry. On Tuesday, he shopped his resume around Willowbrook Mall. He said he plans to delay college for now but the job market has been discouraging.