Illinois pizzeria owner asks for help as future of workforce hangs in the balance

An Illinois pizzeria owner said on Monday he was asking for help as the future of the workforce hangs in the balance as business owners face labor shortages work and government funding is coming to an end.

Joanie’s Pizzeria owner Michael Okun argued on Monday that people were “still getting government-funded money” and noted that while he was doing everything he could to entice workers, he had still struggling to recruit employees.

Okun told FOX Business’ Grady Trimble that he had moved workers to all of his different businesses to stay open, noting that the situation was “so difficult right now.”

“What we’ve done is cross-training,” Okun told Trimble during a live interview on “Varney & Co.” Monday.


“My chef at Chatter Box [restaurant] comes here and helps us out and we have the bartenders coming and going.”

Earlier this month, it was revealed that the latest JOLTS job openings report stood at 10.6 million at the end of November after hitting a record high of 11.03 million the previous month. The data comes before the highly contagious omicron variant of the coronavirus begins to disrupt the economy. Data on December job vacancies will be released on Tuesday.

It was also revealed earlier this month that a record number of Americans quit their jobs in November 2021, underscoring how continued turmoil in the labor market has made it difficult for employers to fill vacancies. .

The Labor Department said earlier this month that an unprecedented 4.5 million Americans, or about 3% of the workforce, quit their jobs in November, matching the peak of September. This represents an increase from 4.2 million in October and surpasses the previous record of 4.4 million in September. The pre-pandemic level was around 3.6 million.

Resignations in November were concentrated – one of the industries hardest hit by the pandemic – accommodation and food services, along with health care and social assistance, transport, housing and utilities . A majority of people leave for a new job.

Okun said he was offering workers more money, a 401k and health insurance and was “still not getting anyone.”

He stressed that he believed government money during the pandemic had “absolutely” contributed to the problem.

“I think they are still getting government-funded money,” Okun pointed out, referring to the fact that many people had more to spend due to stimulus checks being issued during the pandemic.

As more people were vaccinated last spring and demand from restaurants and stores rebounded, businesses faced the challenge of trying to meet the growing demand. Also contributing to the labor shortage, many hourly workers found new jobs as they reprioritized.

Employers have been forced, like Okun, to look for ways to make their jobs more attractive, while some have also been forced to reduce their working hours.

According to a September survey by the National Restaurant Association, the vast majority of restaurateurs surveyed said their restaurants had reduced their hours of operation on open days from June to August. The survey also found that nearly half of respondents said they had closed their restaurant on days when it would normally be open during that time.


When asked what he thought was in store for 2022, Okun said he hoped the situation would improve now that government funding expires.

“We’re seeing a little bit of a time where some people are starting to go out and want to work,” he said, adding that despite everything, he recently had to beg a friend who had retired to help him with his businesses at the in the midst of the current labor shortage. and now this friend runs the pizzeria.


Megan Henney of FOX Business and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Michael A. Bynum