By Craig Monger

Staffing shortages in the state of Alabama have caused a dramatic uptick in online advertisements for jobs across the state. According to a press release from the Alabama Department of Labor, the Market Information Division has shown an annual increase of 72% in online advertisements, from August 2020.

The data shows registered nursing jobs taking first place with the largest numerical increase in online ads, followed by ads for retail salespersons, customer service representatives, sales representatives, and truck drivers. These five fields account for 14,072 ads in August of this year, up from 7,969, in August 2020. The data is compiled across the full gamut of online platforms.

Of the advertised jobs, 27% have salaries more than $50,000; 21% have between $35-49,000, and 52% have less than $35,000.   

UAB accounted for the highest number of online ads (1,465), producing almost 47% more than its nearest competitor: Huntsville Hospital (999). Falling behind: Encompass Health (676), University of South Alabama (605), Lowe’s (591), Regions (559), St. Vincent’s Health System (558), the University of Alabama at Birmingham (551), Aramark (450), and Baptist Health (446) all account for the top ten largest purveyors of online advertisements in the state.

Although food service managers make up a fraction of combined online ads, they saw the most substantial growth in advertising with an increase of 116.6% from August 2020.

Despite this prodigious increase in online advertising, businesses continue to suffer staffing shortages across the state. Restaurants and other food service occupations have seen some of the largest depletions in staffing, with food service workers being the second-largest claimants of unemployment benefits in 2020.

A manager at Baumhower’s Victory Grille, in Montgomery, said she finds it difficult to keep and to hire employees. She told 1819 News that oftentimes, the applicants don’t even show up to their scheduled interviews.

Cookout, in Montgomery, hosted an in-store hiring fair to address the lack of additional management.

Chick-fil-A, a restaurant renowned for offering competitive wages and appreciable benefits, has been forced to eliminate dine-in and pick-up services in at least three chains across the state.        

Norman Dull, the store operator for Chick-fil-A in Madison, Alabama, wrote on the store’s Facebook page, "We are doing everything we can to hire more team members. We are seeing far less job applicants or people not showing up for their interviews.

“Unfortunately, because of this issue, we are having to temporarily close our dining room, turn off our mobile curbside ordering option, as well as our mobile carryout option,” Dull continued. “We have some of the best team members in the world. They work hard every day, but they are tired and overextended.”

The staffing shortages continue in Alabama despite the overall increase in wages. According to a study done by Black Box Intelligence and Snagajob, there has been a 10% increase in wages since 2020.

 “There are approximately 70% more job vacancies than pre-pandemic levels across all industries and 10% fewer people looking for work—that’s the greatest gap in recorded history,” the study found.

The study asserts that while 71% of store operators believe the culprit to be higher pay through unemployment or other industries, the increase of unemployment benefits has little effect on the shortage of labor.

Promotion opportunities, flexible hours, health benefits, and a positive work environment were also among the top priorities for food service workers. Employers are attempting to resolve the extreme lack of staffing through ad campaigns, increased wages, and various incentives, but have thus far been unsuccessful in mitigating the massive losses they are suffering in the workforce.

Developing a balance between the cost of labor and the cost of inventory is proving difficult for employers. Since 2019, there has been a marked increase in the cost of wholesale food products. According to the U.S Department of Agriculture, as of August 2021, the price of wholesale food products has increased by 6.6% from August 2020. The increased prices of food products — combined with the demand for higher pay and benefits for employees — have increased the cost of dining out by 4.7%. The USDA anticipates the price of dining away from home to continue to rise by as much as 4.5% in 2022.