Worker shortage creating issues for Metro Detroit businesses

136K women dropped out of the workforce in Michigan, Oakland County official says

How Metro Detroit businesses are handling the worker shortage

DETROIT – You have probably seen the signs all over Metro Detroit on businesses struggling to find workers.

The new and more immediate concern is how many companies might be forced to permanently close their doors.

The math is simple, businesses need customers and when they don’t have workers customers are turned away.

After a while, customers stop coming to those closed businesses. The domino effect is the current lack of labor is simply unsustainable.

Very soon those things we are used to like pulling up to grab a milkshake anytime we want or walking into our favorite store and buying on demand will disappear if the stores can’t service the customers.

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We have seen the signs, workers wanted, workers needed. More and more certain business models fast food, hospitality, retail and other industries are struggling just to stay open during basic business hours.

“All of my restaurants are on limited hours and all six of my restaurants are closed on the weekend. Every weekend that we have been closed for the past 19 months, we are losing a tremendous amount of money,” said Marcia Rabideau, operations manager for an Arby’s franchisee with six Macomb County locations.

She would hire 100 employees on the spot right now if she could.

“The majority of my restaurants are operating with a total of four employees, four in the entire restaurant. Staffing for the volume that we are doing is calling for 25 to 30 employees each location,” said Rabideau.

Jennifer Llewellyn is the manager of workforce development in Oakland County and director for the Oakland County Michigan Works Agency.

“It’s almost a perfect storm right now,” said Llewellyn.

The perfect storm includes mothers who don’t know from day-to-day what their child care situation is or if schools will reopen for face-to-face learning in the fall. In some cases it’s more stable for their families if they stay home.

“Estimates are that 136,000 women dropped out of the workforce in Michigan alone and unfortunately that is not sustainable,” said Llewellyn.

In March and April of last year unemployment was at 20 percent. Now it’s around 2.5 percent.

“Our focus has really shifted to how do we support businesses to find the essential and critical workers they need to be successful,” said Llewellyn.

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About the Authors:

Paula Tutman is an Emmy award-winning journalist who came to Local 4 in 1992. She's a Peace Corps alum who spent her early childhood living in Sierra Leone, West Africa and Tanzania and East Africa.

Natasha Dado is a digital content producer for ClickOnDetroit.