The pandemic and government benefits are still affecting the local labour market.
“Not so many people are looking for work right now,” said Employment Services Centre of Prescott-Russell Director Caroline Arcand.
Many people seem to not be looking for jobs because federal benefits are still available, Arcand said, and some parents have had to stay home because they were not considered essential workers and therefore not eligible for childcare subsidies being offered to workers in essential sectors of the economy.
Arcand said a situation like this has never occurred throughout her career.
“I’ve never seen this. I could not have imagined the extent of the challenge.”
Many employers are offering higher wages and incentives to fill vacancies and having positions left unfilled makes it difficult for businesses to function Arcand said.
“The situation is so critical it impedes the capacity of many businesses to grow.”
The labour shortage is not unique to Prescott and Russell counties. According to Arcand, it is an issue across the country and is affecting every sector of the economy.
Antonios Tsourounakis, owner of Déjà-Vu Restaurant and Bar in Hawkesbury said it has been difficult to maintain adequate staff numbers.
“It is a challenge.”
Tsourounakis said he has a core group of approximately 30 employees and was unable to add extra staff during the summer months to help keep up on the restaurant’s busy outdoor patio, which will remain open as long as the weather allows. Déjà-Vu’s owner is expecting it will be less of a challenge to have enough staff once patio season is over and dining is back to indoors only.
As of September 22, all restaurant and bar customers in Ontario must show proof of COVID-19 vaccination. Tsourounakis is anticipating a 10 to 20 per cent decrease in business once it takes effect, because of individuals who are not vaccinated, or who disagree with providing proof of vaccination.
Proof of vaccination took effect in Quebec on September 1 and Tsourounakis said Quebec residents have been coming to his establishment in Hawkesbury because the requirement was not yet in effect in Ontario.