Worker shortages at businesses could impact prices for customers, economist says

Stores in Southwest Florida are feeling the impact of staffing shortages. Some are having to close early every day, and others are offering hundreds of dollars to hire new employees.

Economist Tom Smythe, a professor at FGCU, told us those worker shortages will eventually impact the wallets of customers.

“The more people that get hired at higher prices, eventually, that will likely push through to the consumer in the form of higher prices,” Smythe said.

Palm Island Resort in Charlotte County is a social distancing paradise. It can only be reached by boat, and no cars are allowed.

“We get around by golf cart or bicycle, or walking of course and the sights and sounds of nature,’ said Lisa Halpin, the operations and sales director at Palm Island Resort.

Still, business is booming, and villas are fully booked through August.

Halpin took us around the resort Wednesday. She has no problem bringing in guests but struggles finding workers to serve them.

“We’re offering a sign-on bonus of $100,” Halpin said. “We still struggle just to get people to apply.”

Smythe said this is still being seen particularly in the service industries during the pandemic.

We noticed problems all over Charlotte County.

Zaxby’s in Port Charlotte will close early due to staffing issues. Nearby, IHOP is advertising a $750 bonus for new servers.

Halpin knows she’s not alone, but it doesn’t make her search for staff any easier.

“We just hope that things change around sooner rather than later,” Halpin said.

We asked Smythe when businesses could begin feeling some relief, and he says an increase in vaccinations will help, since employees will feel comfortable going back to work.

More people will be forced to find jobs when the federal unemployment benefits expire.

Reporter:Erika Jackson
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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