Employment firm sees big increase in job applicants amid 'back to work' bonuses

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Posted at 4:01 PM, May 20, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-20 19:01:37-04

PHOENIX — Thousands of jobs, and not enough applicants. It has been a struggle many business owners are facing in Arizona, since the pandemic.

The worker shortage has led restaurants to close their doors at times, and production companies to revise schedules due to a shortage of staffing. Employers have been struggling to keep up with the pace of work once again, as life gets back to what was once considered "normal".

The workflow has picked up but the only problem is, the workers have not wanted to come back to work.

Daria Orozco, a franchise owner of Express Employment Professionals cites many reasons for this dilemma.

"A lot of people have been comfortable on unemployment, and they have been okay," said Orozco.

Americans had learned to adjust their spending, and in many cases had more cash on hand as they had not spent much money during the pandemic. Some were making more money living off of unemployment than they did while working a minimum wage job, especially with the federal government contributing more money toward their checks, they had no incentive to return to work. In some cases, childcare issues were keeping employees at home, others still had COVID-19 safety concerns and worried about being in a crowded environment again.

Orozco said as more people received vaccines, some of those fears were going away. More businesses were reopening and people were wanting to get out of the house once again. While those factors helped, Orozco said, after Governor Doug Ducey announced his "Arizona Back to Work" initiative, they saw a sudden shift in the number of job applicants coming through their agency, to get re-hired.

"We've seen our applicants double. It's been very, very positive," said Orozco.

Express Employment Professionals focus on jobs in the administrative, light industrial, and hospitality sectors. The company hosted a job fair in their South Phoenix location on Thursday. Many who showed up, were hired on the spot.

Nicholas Brown was one of them. Brown lost his job when a contract for making N-95 masks with Honeywell ended. Within minutes of filling out the paperwork, Brown learned he had been hired in the shipping and receiving department of a company that made medical equipment.

"I am so excited. I start at 8:45 a.m. tomorrow," said Brown. He said he felt a sense of pride, going back to work again.

"When I feel like I'm working, I feel like I'm doing something better. And I like my kids to see that, you know, it gives them a platform to see that their father's doing something positive and installs it in them also," added Brown.

Orozco said the pandemic and ensuing worker shortage had been a wake-up call for many business owners. She had counseled many of them to improve their recruitment efforts by offering more than minimum wage and improving upon their work culture. Orozco said all of these companies were essentially competing to hire the best people from the same, smaller pool of qualified workers. She saw some businesses increase their wages from $13 to $15 an hour.

Bob Anderson, CEO of Prisma Graphic, a printing and mailing company, was offering their own incentive to lure in good employees.

"They get a $500 incentive at first when they start with us, and stay with us for over 90 days," said Anderson.

He added that the company was also stressing the importance of respect and dignity within their work culture, something he hoped would make a prospective employee proud to be a part of their company.

"It's a really long-term commitment when you come to our workforce because you actually learn a trade there," added Anderson, saying the flexible shifts they offered were also a lure for many employees.

The 'return to work' bonuses are first come first served. To qualify, an individual must have been on unemployment and be hired by Labor Day weekend. They must stay with the company for 10-weeks. Their salary must also be $25/hour or less.

Those working full time could get a $2,000 bonus for returning to work. Those working part-time could get a $1,000 bonus.

To learn more about the "Arizona Back to Work" program and bonuses, CLICK HERE.