Small Business Owners Still Need Workers

Extended unemployment benefits from Hurricane Katrina will expire in three days. And while that may be difficult news for some people, it's a relief to many small business owners.

"I think any small business has a challenge keeping good, quality, committed workers. But nothing of this scale," said Bruce Grimes.

His sign out front says it best: Brass Hanger Cleaners is desperate for help.

"My expectation is when the unemployment benefits end, more people will be applying for jobs and businesses like mine can be fully staffed," said Grimes.

Finding enough workers to staff his three dry cleaning locations has been a pressing concern since the hurricane.

"I think the worker class is still here in the area. But they're just not being forced to work because of having this income from unemployment and other sources," says Grimes.

"If we can just keep them here, we'll be all right," said one longtime dry cleaning employee.

Finding and keeping good workers has put a strain on many merchants, especially in the service industry.

"If you go to a restaurant, they're closing early. Or a fast food business may only have drive through service. It takes longer to have anything done these days," said Grimes.

The owner of a new pizza business in Ocean Springs also faces staffing challenges.

"It was pretty tough, probably say two to three months ago we started looking for employees. We had a pretty tough time," said Tom Wiltz, the owner of Figaro's Pizza.

One week from opening, he's almost fully staffed, but still needs to fill a few jobs from a difficult post-Katrina labor market.

"I would describe it as pretty tough still. It seems a lot of folks moved out of town for the hurricane. A lot of people are still drawing unemployment. And hopefully in the next week or so when that goes away, there will be a lot more availability," said Wiltz.

It may mean fewer Help Wanted signs, as more employees return to the workforce.

Disaster unemployment assistance was originally supposed to end on March 4th. President Bush extended the assistance another 13 weeks, until June 3rd.