Restaurants struggle to fill jobs even as unemployment rate drops

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GREENE COUNTY, NC (WITN) – Unemployment rates in Eastern Carolina are trending lower according to new reports from the North Carolina Department of Commerce, but some business owners say the data doesn’t represent the difficulties they face in filling vacancies.

Sitting at an unemployment rate of 3%, Greene County appears to be back on track in the job market.

However, restaurant owners along Highway 58 in Snow Hill say they have struggled to fill jobs for months, and it doesn’t seem to be getting better.

“It’s really bad. I don’t see why the numbers would say it’s good because everywhere you look there’s hiring, even our brand,” said Bilinda Gwaltney, owner of Two Cousins ​​​​Pizza in Snow Hill.

When new state data showed the apparent employment success in Greene County, Gwaltney argued against it.

“We actually had to stop our deliveries, which was a big thing, because of the lack of help,” Gwaltney said. “We have just lost a pilot and we are still looking for another.”

Being family owned and operated, the pizzeria had to make tough business decisions.

“It hurts because people don’t know if we’re going to be open, if we’re not. They wonder and it hurts them too because they love our business…and I think because we’re understaffed, some of that might contribute to us getting a little slower.

A few minutes down Highway 58, the staff at Piggly Wiggly tell a different story.

“We haven’t had any problems with employment or getting people to work or anything like that,” Danielle Gray said. “We actually had people ready to come to work.”

Gray has worked at the grocery store for 12 years. She’s seen a lot during that time, but says she and her colleagues have remained employed throughout the pandemic.

“I had COVID at the time, but the show goes on. Everyone showed up, everyone worked together,” Gray recalled. “We always work together. We here are going to come to work. We may have to be sent home, but we will come to work.

For employers who continue to post the Help Wanted signs, many shortages still need to be filled.

The statewide unemployment average sits at 3.5%, just a fraction below the national average of 3.6%.

With more than 55,000 new workers in the state in March alone, the hope of many struggling employers is to add to their own rosters soon.

While Greene County is said to have the lowest unemployment rate in the East, Hyde County is on the other end of the spectrum with the highest figure of 8.7% of its residents unemployed.

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