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With Fewer Jobs In The Leisure and Hospitality Sector, Businesses Struggle With Staffing Shortages

photo looking up Park City's Main Street. businesses on either side with cars moving down a two lane road
KPCW
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  Where are the workers? Employers around Park City are suffering from staffing shortages. 

 

 

  

There are almost 1,500 fewer jobs in the leisure and hospitality sector in Summit County when compared to 2019. That’s according to the Utah Department of Workforce Services’s December 2020 local insights

Even with fewer jobs, Historic Park City Alliance Executive Director Alison Kuhlow said there are also fewer workers, thanks to stricter rules regarding work visas. 

"We are expecting a shortage from here on out at this point," Kuhlow said. "With the J-1 visas - we don't have any understanding of when those may come back into play - that was a significant resource for employees for our businesses."

Kuhlow said there are also more jobs down in Salt Lake City drawing in workers from surrounding areas like Orem or Provo, who don’t want to make the trip up Parley’s Canyon. 

"If people are stuck in traffic, they're not going to choose to work up here in Park City," she said. "And so traffic, transportation, park-and-rides, pay [are] all items that kind of boil down to the problem that we're having with regards to employees and of course affordable housing."

While employers are reporting staffing shortages, the leisure and hospitality sector of the economy have seen more unemployment claims than any other sector in the county. Since the start of the year, there have been around 130 claims, nearly 50 more than the second highest sector: professional or business services. 

That could be because people are reassessing their career paths. A Pew Research survey showed that 66% percent of people unemployed had seriously considered changing their field of work during the pandemic. 

Park City Chamber Bureau CEO Jennifer Wesselhoff said many people are also still hesitant to return to work until they’re fully vaccinated or their kids are back in school. 

"It's interesting, people are saying that it's not a labor shortage," she said. "It's a great reassessment of work in general in America." 

Earlier this month, Utah Gov. Spencer Cox announced the state would cut the $300 weekly federal unemployment funding. Wesselhoff said employers still might not see their staff come back.

"It's definitely going to create some urgency, I think, for those folks who may have had that extra bump in on federal unemployment, that may no longer have that," she said. "But that doesn't necessarily mean that they're going to be going back to the same job or even the same industry that they were in pre-pandemic."

Federal unemployment benefits will end in Utah June 26.

 

Jessica joins KPCW as a general assignment reporter and Sunday Weekend Edition host. A Florida native, she graduated from the University of Florida with degrees in English — concentrating in film studies — and journalism. Before moving to Utah, she spent time in Atlanta, GA.
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