Coast businesses adapt to worker shortage during holiday

Published: Jul. 2, 2021 at 6:40 PM CDT
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BILOXI, Miss. (WLOX) - Federal unemployment benefits ended in Mississippi June 12th, but many business are still struggling to find employees to meet the growing demand.

And this shortage is especially difficult for those in the tourism industry as they are looking to get slammed for the Fourth of July holidays. Sharkheads souvenir shop in Biloxi is full and getting fuller.

So, staffers have a lot work to do to get ready for a big weekend, almost too much.

“They are all working more than they normally work,” said owner J.J. Pierotich. “And the lines are long and it’s stressful for them and we’re just trying to keep everyone to be calm.”

The number of employees is about 60, and Pierotich said he could use another ten, but he’s appreciative of those who are here.

“We try to create an atmosphere that’s good for them where they feel loved and appreciated, and we’re grateful for them to come back and be in here,” Pierotich added. “A lot of the kids in here are just summer jobs. And it’s wonderful. We could sure use some more of them. But, we’re short staffed. We don’t have any depth in our employment right now.”

Employment numbers are looking decent for Big Play in Biloxi, but owner Brandon Wooldridge said it could be better.

“We’re at about 150 employees or team members right now. And, that’s probably ok. But we’re also losing as faster than we normally do,” he said. “We’ve got some people still working doubles. We put incentive programs in for employees. If you work a double shift, you get a $25 bonus. We’re trying to get away from that because it’s more expensive to operate that way. We are constantly hiring. Normally we kind of hire up in the spring before the season and just have a few people that we hire throughout. This has been constant this year.”

At Electrik Maid Bake Shop, things aren’t so hectic, even with preparing for the Fourth of July weekend. In fact, with only six employees, labor problems are nominal. Everyone came back after the COVID shutdown.

Owner Nona Balius agreed her business almost fits in to the category of “too small to fail.”

“It may be, yes,” she said with a laugh. “Especially if you’ve got family working with you. So, that helps. I mean, if you have to work overtime, you just work overtime.”

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Mississippi’s unemployment rate in May was 6.1%.

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