With the economy slowly waking up from the coronavirus nap, those in charge of helping people look for work are finding there are plenty of jobs available.
“The job market is full, full, full,” said Debbie Harrison of the Monroe County CareerLink. “Every employer is looking for someone. Especially in hospitality. It’s so open, it’s not even funny.”
Harrison said the hospitality is ready to welcome people who have been sitting home in quarantine for the past year and ready to welcome them for a summer retreat.
“The employers really need people,” she said of those at restaurants, convention centers and banquet spaces as well as the mountain resorts and waterparks. “Many people had to leave these jobs because of the shutdowns and restrictions. When these places reopened, many of those people moved on to other jobs and other careers. Or they aren’t looking until things are safe.”
Harrison said the Poconos resorts have been seeing an influx of guests and foot traffic. She said with people not traveling to faraway places and keeping trips closer to the region, they are expecting more and more regional visitors.
“This is a major destination stop,” she said. “With people coming here on weekends especially, it’s driven a need for employees. When the restrictions are lifted even further and more people coming, there will be a need for a lot more workers.”
It’s no secret the pandemic cost Pennsylvania a lot of jobs. In an analysis of Pennsylvania’s employment data, The Allegheny Institute for Public Policy, a western Pennsylvania conservative think tank, found that the hospitality industry saw their worst losses with government jobs showing the least amount of losses. The Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry found that Pennsylvania lost 500,000 jobs in 2020 thanks to the pandemic.
Jamie Mercaldo, site administrator for the Pennsylvania CareerLink office of Columbia, Montour, Northumberland, Snyder and Union counties, expects to see a ‘normal’ hiring season for the summer months.
“Companies who typically hire seasonally in our area such as Knoebels, Furmano’s, and local campgrounds plan to be open for business. Knoebels typically hires between 1,000 and 2,000 people per season and can bring on employees as young as 14 years of age,” she said.
Mercaldo said one local campground has 100 openings for the summer.
“In addition to seasonal hiring for the entertainment and hospitality industries, local retail, health, and manufacturing companies are looking for help and advertising numerous openings,” she said. “Other seasonal industries such as lawn care are always looking for employees from now through the fall, which can even morph into winter work performing tasks such as snow removal.”
She said in addition, companies are also looking to hire people ‘permanently.’
Chris Whitney, career services director at the University of Scranton, said many companies are looking to fill positions where people have either left the job market completely or are sitting things out until the economy fully reopens.
“We are looking pretty darn good,” said Whitney. “Companies are starting to open up again and they are looking for people. There are a lot of people who didn’t return or didn’t want to return, and they need to look for new people – people who didn’t work for them prior to the pandemic.”
Whitney believes there are people currently on unemployment who are either not job hunting or can’t look for work because they have children at home in virtual learning environments. She also thinks as more people get vaccinated, more people will head back to work.
“For some people, their kids aren’t back full-time yet,” she said. “So if they’ve got kids at home, how can they return to work. Not everyone has the luxury of someone caring for their kids and they have to attend to them.”
Whitney said while retail and customer service jobs are constantly in the mix for job seekers, the tourist resorts and summer camps are also looking for help. She said the job market in general is not like it was during the Great Recession of 2008-2009.
“There weren’t jobs back then,” she said. “But now, companies are recruiting virtually and interviewing that way too and it’s to their benefit. As long as you’re OK with those changes, it will work.”
And the remote office, she said, will not go away.
“Don’t forget about the virtual workplace,” said Whitney. “There are a lot of jobs that are available virtually and that will continue. We deal with everyone from small businesses and big firms. Everyone is finding out that the virtual office is working.”