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Growing economy, smaller workforce equals hiring challenges for Kentucky employers | News


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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — The Naïve Kitchen and Bar on East Washington St. in Butchertown opened four years ago and has thrived even through the COVID-19 pandemic. But the popularity of the restaurant’s “vegetable-centric” cuisine has led to another challeng: filling seven open positions.

“Right now, we’re kind of experiencing that double-edged sword,” owner Catherine McDowall said. “Because of our success, we need more employees.”

McDowall is not alone. Kentucky’s economy is growing, adding thousands of new jobs. The problem will be finding enough people to fill all those jobs, because the pandemic shrank the state’s workforce.

“A lot of the people that lost jobs or have left the labor force are women, particularly African American women,” said Michael Gritton, executive director of Kentuckiana Works.

Gritton said the big reasons for the labor shortage are lingering COVID-19 concerns, transportation issues and the lack of child care.

“Half of all Kentucky child care facilities in Kentucky have closed in the last eight years, and that’s before the pandemic hit,” Gritton said.

Gritton said companies that help people address those issues, as well as provide higher pay, are the ones that will attract talented workers.

“The competition for workers is creating a better environment for workers, both in pay and benefits and also in educational opportunities,” he said. “That’s a really happy circumstance that we should be celebrating.”

MacDowall said she is offering pay that is competitive with corporations such as Amazon and Target. She is also providing bonuses for workers who refer others, incentives for relocating from other cities and more flexible working hours.

“If they need to pick up their children from child care, how can we really accommodate employees and make it a positive working environment?” she said.

But Gritton said customers should be prepared to pay the price.

“That may mean you and I pay a little bit more for the entrée or a little bit more for the appetizer,” he said. “But at the same time, the restaurant’s more likely to be able to get the person to work there and to stay there.”

MacDowall said she is optimistic about the workforce issues being resolved over time. In fact, she is planning open a second restaurant and hire 25 more workers. For more information, contact info@eatnaive.com.

Copyright 2021 WDRB Media. All Rights Reserved.

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