Help wanted: How businesses and Ohio are making changes to fill vacant positions


CLEVELAND, Ohio (WJW) – Look around, and you can’t miss the help wanted signs posted outside Northeast Ohio businesses, including Upper Crust Pizza and Chicken in Lakewood.

“We have the customers. They’re calling and wanting deliveries, but I can’t provide that for them because we’re short staffed,” General Manager Everett Amie, Jr. said.

Friday, Amie was the only employee working a shift that needs five.

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He said he’s been seeking workers for six months with just a handful of applicants, including two who took a job but then quit to collect unemployment benefits that paid more.

“Now, with people having the ability to sit home and make more, they’re going to take that route,” he said.

As it works to fill 1,000 seasonal positions, the Cleveland Metroparks said it’s struggling to find food prep workers.

Without enough kitchen staff, some restaurants, including Merwin’s Wharf, could remain closed for the summer season, according to Chief Human Resources Officer Harold Harrison.

“I think it’s a combination of ‘I went into a different career,’ and ‘I also can stay off and make generally about the same amount of money,’” Harrison said.

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Similar accounts from businesses statewide prompted Ohio Governor Mike DeWine announced Thursday the state will opt out of the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation Program starting June 26.

The program adds a $300 weekly surplus to traditional unemployment during the pandemic, and is set to expire nationally in September.

“It’s having a real impact on Ohio’s ability to fully recover,” DeWine said, noting workers have now had the opportunity to be vaccinated. The state said its Jobs Ohio program has 90,000 positions available that pay more than $50,000.

Opponents of the unemployment change point to a larger issue: some businesses are not paying workers enough. They say those employers need to increase wages and benefits.

Some are now doing that, with several national chains in recent days announcing they are increasing hourly pay.

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“More organizations are realizing they have to inch up their pay rates to attract top talent,” said Jill Turski, regional manager for the staffing firm Robert Half in Cleveland.

She said the job market is hot, so prospective employees can be pickier. But, she notes lengthening resume gaps can harm one’s career long term.

“With that demand comes the ability to negotiate and find the best situation for yourself,” Turski said.

Amie said Upper Crust has increased starting hourly wages and will pay more for candidates with experience. He also said the business is considering additional incentives to attract employees.

“If you want these people that are worth your dollar, you have to make it worth their time,” he said.

Harrison said the Metroparks has also increased pay rates in some locations and is considering more incentives to attract workers.

“To stay competitive, we’re going to have to make some changes with how we operate as a seasonal employer,” Harrison said.

Both organizations pointed to growth potential, even if someone starts in a lower-paying entry-level position.


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