NORTH ROYALTON, Ohio — At Niko's Bar and Gyros in North Royalton, where business is brisk, you'll find plenty of their signature gyros, but not as many new workers.
"I feel like I'm in the Twilight Zone after 29 years in business," owner Niko Moulagianis said, adding he has been advertising online for $15-an-hour shift workers but has not had any applicants. "For two months! I used to have stacks -- stacks -- of applications."
Moulagianis' dilemma is being seen across the country. The latest numbers from the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics show more than 9.3 million job openings nationwide, a new record.
"I prefer to look at this as a mismatch, and that means that it's going to take time before we have a proper realignment of workers with the jobs that are currently open or will be open in the coming months," Bankrate.com economic analyst Mark Hamrick explained.
The latest survey from the Ohio Restaurant Association released this week, found that 91% of its members were dealing with staffing shortages, and a vast majority (89%) blamed extended unemployment benefits.
It's not just restaurants that are experiencing shortages. At Ag-Pro North Royalton, there are signs posted along State Route 82 offering a $3,000 signing bonus for a qualified repair technician. It's something the company has never done before.
"The idea, and hope, is that we can incentivize somebody that's qualified and wants to work for a growing company with the full benefits of a full-time job," Ag-Pro manager John Mordesovich said.
In Sandusky, Cedar Point raised wages to $20-an-hour to attract employees, and it worked, and the park announced on Wednesday it has reached pre-pandemic job interest. But for small local restaurant owners, where profit margins are razor-thin, raising wages isn't easy.
"It's very, very difficult when you hear somebody who is not in this business, who's never been in this business, say, 'Oh, if you can't afford to pay $15 an hour, you shouldn't be in business,'" Moulagianis said. I'm sorry, you've never worked hard enough to see what it takes to do what we do."
The rising labor costs could lead to raising prices, as Chipotle announced on Tuesday a 4% increase in menu prices to cover workers' increased wages. Darlene Fluellen, a Chipotle customer in Broadview Heights, summed it up: "We all pay. We will be paying dearly."