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Help wanted
Missy Rainwater
Designer Missy Rainwater straightens her work area before starting a hectic Monday at New Life Flowers & Gifts. - photo by Mark Lastinger/staff

RINCON — “Help wanted” is clearly the sign of the times.

More than two dozen businesses scattered along Ga. Hwy 21 in Rincon are advertising for workers. The employment situation is the same in Guyton and Springfield.

“Hiring is especially difficult right now for businesses in all sectors,” Effingham County Chamber of Commerce CEO Andy Cripps said. “The most recent unemployment rate for Effingham County was 3.3 percent, and (it’s) 6 percent nationally. We know of local businesses offering jobs with good salaries and benefits but who can’t get any applicants.”

Dawn Usher has two openings at her Rincon business — New Life Flowers & Gifts. Each offers 32 hours per week.

“I need a delivery driver and I need someone to answer the phone, take the orders and deal with the customers,” Usher said. “I’ve needed them for a couple months.”

Usher posted a “Help wanted” sign on her door at 159 Commercial Drive. The employment opportunities have also been promoted on social media.

“I had two different people question about the jobs,” she said. “They asked about coming in (for an interview) but they don’t return calls or anything.” 

Andrea Allsbrook has experienced the same kind of frustration. She needs a cook, a server and a part-time dish washer at Ms. Jean’s Restaurant at 907 Lisa St. in Rincon

“All of them have been posted for probably six to eight weeks now,” Allsbrook said. “I get very few applications and people don’t show up for interviews. Some people aren’t qualified but a lot just aren’t showing up.

“I don’t understand why they (schedule interviews) if they aren’t going to show up.”

The dearth of available workers is attributable in part to the pandemic-inspired CARES Act, which gave states the option of extending unemployment compensation to independent contractors and other workers who are ordinarily ineligible for benefits.

“Many people left the workforce because of COVID-19 shutdowns,” Cripps said. “Some have stayed at home with children while schools and daycare facilities were closed. Temporary increases in unemployment payments helped those families get through the pandemic, but have extended the workforce shortage.

“If a worker on unemployment now takes an available job, and that job doesn’t work out, there could be a gap of up to six weeks before that person receives another unemployment payment.

“Strong economic growth in Effingham is also a factor as the number of available jobs is growing faster than the residential and commercial real estate markets can accommodate an influx of new residents and businesses.”

Allsbrook expects the food worker shortage to intensify. Dunkin’ Donuts, Jersey Mike’s and Zaxby’s are set to open in Rincon soon.

“I think it’s great that our city is growing but, with the labor market, I don’t know how we are going to support them,” she said.

Allsbrook and Usher said the predicament has not forced them to alter their hours of operation — at least not yet.

“Right now, we are making do with the staff that we have,” Allsbrook said. “We are wearing out the ones who do show up for work and it makes it hard on everybody.

“I knew we are all in the same boat and it breaks my heart.”

Usher’s typical day has changed dramatically.

“I’m having to get out and deliver because there is an age requirement on my insurance,” she said. “They have to be 25 or older to drive my vehicles. I can’t let a teenager come in.”

In another switch, Usher’s staff consistently has to work past her store’s 5:30 p.m. closing time.

“We are always trying to play catch-up so that we don’t start the next day in a hole,” she said.

Cripps, whose organization is advertising local job openings, is optimistic that help is on the way.

“We expect a strong return to the workforce when those temporary (unemployment) benefits end,” he said. “Students on summer break can also offer some short-term help.”