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Arizona restaurant, tourism businesses struggle to hire employees

Arizona businesses in the restaurant and tourism industry are struggling to keep up with demand with a labor shortage as COVID-19 guidelines ease up.

PHOENIX — As COVID-19 case numbers show continual declines, the state is opening its doors to more customers and tourists.

But there’s a problem. It's one that business owners would normally love to have: They can’t keep up with demand.

“We’ve had other years where there’s been a labor shortage,” said Dan Bogert, CEO of the Arizona Restaurant Association. “I think this is a little bit different in that it’s nationwide and it’s industry-wide.”

The association reports it lost 80% of its workforce overnight when COVID-19 hit last year.

Bogert said there’s likely a combination of reasons for why restaurants are having trouble hiring. Some workers may have found a new industry entirely and others may still be hesitant to return to work, Bogert said.

“I think some of it will solve itself as folks get more comfortable returning to the workplace and as more people who are coming of labor age enter the labor force,” Bogert said.

Hotels are also slammed.

On Tuesday, Talking Stick Resort held a job fair for more than 200 positions ranging from cooks to food servers to security officers.

The Scottsdale Princess Resort recently launched an advertising blitz to find more employees, offering sign-up bonuses.

The rideshare industry is also lacking contractors. 12 News has received reports from Arizonans who complain they had to wait more than an hour for an Uber or Lyft after arriving at Sky Harbor Airport.

Uber confirms they are short drivers.

"As more people are vaccinated, demand from customers has increased which has caused longer wait times,” said Uber spokesperson Kayla Whaling in a written statement to 12 News.

“We're working to bring more drivers and delivery people onto the road, and for anyone interested, now is a great chance to earn money flexibly on your own schedule. We've taken safety measures, such as required use of masks, to make sure both drivers and riders can safely rely on the Uber platform." 

Bogert said the ARA is asking the governor to consider requiring Arizonans who are receiving unemployment insurance to be actively seeking employment.

As a result of Gov. Doug Ducey’s order, DES has temporarily suspended the “actively seeking work” requirement for unemployment claimants. An individual is not currently required to apply for other employment while collecting unemployment insurance benefits, said a spokesperson for DES.