Amusement parks and hospitality industry face worker shortage

Posted | Contributed by Jeff

Resort communities across the U.S. face an acute shortage of summer workers as concerns about transmitting COVID-19 linger and many Americans continue to receive expanded unemployment benefits. Oceanside restaurants, amusement parks and other operations say there are too few job applicants for temporary positions that remain open.

Read more from CBS News.

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I wrote this in another thread, but Kennywood reported some success in recruiting by raising the wage they are offering.

The struggle for hiring for part time, entry level work is real. And in the area where I’m doing it, the question for raising pay rates is “how high do you want to go?” I don’t know that $2-3 per hour does the trick and going higher than that starts to scare people.

It’s evident that Disney is struggling. A lot of the smaller food locations are closed and even some bigger ones. They’re struggling even more due to the lack of foreign workers and college program workers.

Jeff's avatar

Yeah, I hear it a lot in Orlando circles, for Disney, Universal and SeaWorld. Getting the bodies back is challenging (maybe more for SeaWorld, but the way they let people go and rehired was apparently pretty ****ty). And I mentioned this in another thread, but the hiring probably has more to do with a slow ramp of marketing and opening new attractions than any other factor, which is hard to believe. In some ways though, maybe this forces the reckoning about how hourly workers are paid, and it just took a shift in demand to get them something better.

Jeff - Editor - - My Blog - Phrazy

Year round parks also presumably do not have the infrastructure to hire in huge numbers because its not something they ever have to do. Seasonal parks are accustomed to hiring a full staff each season.

There are multiple factors contributing to challenges hiring staff. I see help wanted signs up in many places right now with different jobs. Manufacturers are having trouble finding people. Increasing wages can help unless more companies start doing that.

Fun's avatar

Certainly, there is merit to the idea that demand for labor is higher than usual, due to all these businesses reopening nearly simultaneously.

But the other side of the coin, supply, is just as important to consider. The supply of available workers for hospitality jobs is significantly lower. In addition to almost no foreign workers, it would appear that when a lot of people lose their job or are furloughed in industry, many of those people change careers. Others start noticing how easily these workers were dumped to the side and it suddenly doesn't seem very smart to sign up for that same kind of treatment.

What is really interesting to me is that this isn't just a US problem! Seems like France is seeing the exact same decrease in supply:

"Restaurants and hotels across the country are facing the same problem. After months on furlough, workers in droves are deciding not to return to jobs in the hospitality industry. It’s a particular concern in France, which typically tops the list of the world’s most visited countries.

So short of the government stepping in and influencing the supply side, hospitality employers are going to have to significantly retool their workforce to create demand for jobs. There really aren't many levers they can pull on, other than wages, bonuses, and maybe scholarship awards, to attract seasonal workers.

It is reasonable to assume more workers will become available in 2022, and 2023, but we could be looking at rapid wage growth for seasonal jobs for a couple of years. Or you might see employers convert some seasonal jobs to full-time salaried just so they don't lose them.

Last edited by Fun,

I'm sure a lack of child care for kids that are not in school in person full time yet is probably keeping some people home and those looking for jobs may be avoiding positions that they fear may be deemed "non-essential" until they feel sure that shut downs are behind us.

The industry has depended on people working for a low wage with the “fun”atmosphere being the attraction. In reality it’s not a fun job No benefits Etc These parks are getting what they pay for.

Theme parks are going to be a lower quality experience now. Lack of good employees and all the pandemic cutbacks (less hours, less live entertainment, closed food/shops etc).

The B Class chains like Cedar Fair and C Class like Six Flags are really going to regret their cheap season passes when the parts are overcrowded and they can’t find enough employees to service the crowd Can’t pay good wages when the business plan is cheap season passes

TheMillenniumRider's avatar

I wonder if it is even wages. People just seem to not want to work. We pay roughly 20 per hour with full benefits for entry level, sometimes more and I get people who no show on the first day, no show for interviews, etc.

Everyone says wages, but I have much better wages and still struggle to fill spots.

Jeff's avatar

I don't believe that. I think people desperately want to work. But I think people finally have vision beyond basic non-management retail, because that job had little future potential.

Curious to know how the trades are doing right now.

Jeff - Editor - - My Blog - Phrazy

You don't believe that employers that are paying in the $15-20/hour range still are not able to fill their jobs.... or people don't show up.... or quit after a week?

That is very much reality for a lot of businesses right now. 8 million fewer Americans are in the workforce today than pre-pandemic and the lack of international workers certainly doesn't help the situation. This summer is going to be tough. Specific to Cedar Fair, Richard Zimmerman said in their quarterly call this week, the labor market is by far the most challenging he's ever experienced in 30+ years in the industry.

Last edited by Chicago07,
OhioStater's avatar

It's one of those phenomenon that has multiple causal factors, so one can't just point the finger at one thing. It's a perfect storm of many factors coming to head.

Is it unemployment checks? Sure. Is it anxiety over going back into the public? Probably. Is it the fact that the service industry has relied on an endless supply of people willing to work for complete sh$% wages? In some cases. I hadn't even thought about the kids-being-home factor, but there's another piece of our pie.

Cedar Point is presumably not seeing the success they thought they would be increasing wages, because they did (up to $16/hour! + signing bonuses for returning employees), and yet late last week they chopped hours on their operating schedule, with no another explanation other than staffing not being where they thought it would be. Raising wages, as an isolated factor, does not appear to be working to the degree some think it might.

Last edited by OhioStater,

Promoter of fog.

Of course another part of the problem is that a lot of these jobs are some form of fuvg work. No wage will make up for some of the unpleasantness of some of the jobs we’re talking about. Long shifts, unpredictable shifts, and the impossibility of a good balance between work and not-work. Employers could mitigate some of those problems and make the jobs less fuvggl...except that a big part of that is the fact that everybody is so understaffed. They can’t get enough employees to make the job less fuvggl, in part because it is such a fuvggl job!
A lot of the problem is simple math. Too many jobs with nobody to fill them. The question is, if increased wages don’t attract people, what will?

—Dave Althoff, Jr.

    /X\        _      *** Respect rides. They do not respect you. ***
/XXX\ /X\ /X\_ _ /X\__ _ _ _____

It'd be interesting to know what percentage of seasonal amusement park jobs in the US are staffed by foreign students. That pool is empty this year.

TheMillenniumRider's avatar

To comment on the non management positions being undesirable, we recent had a management position open, granted not a super high level one, but still able to clear ~65000 per year. It took over 4 months to fill that spot, and the person that left was only there 3 months and was a complete slacker. Had one show up work the first day, tell us they didn’t like wearing a mask and quit. Others not show for interviews, no shows, the gamut.

I really believe the boosted unemployment benefits are keeping extra workers out of the workforce, but past that I’m not sure how fundamentally the disease changed the labor market. People in theory should be in a worse off position now than they were before all of this started, are they not?

OhioStater - couldn't agree more. A problem with multiple factors, and a problem without an end or solution in sight anytime soon. And it will affect the consumer experience in pretty much every leisure, hospitality, entertainment type industry.

TheMillenniumRider's avatar

what isnt in shortage right now? Lumber is up, steel is up, microprocessors, pc parts, chlorine, fuel truck drivers, workers?

shoot, I ordered some brochures at work and those were on backorder, for like two months, printed pieces of paper, backordered?!?!

sounds like we need to shrink the economy a bit to right size everything, but the overpopulation demands “stuff” we can’t produce.

Last edited by TheMillenniumRider,

Speaking of the trades, those are backed up too. Our kitchen sink faucet failed. The earliest we could get someone out to install the new one was four days. I *hate* plumbing (and nearly always make it worse if I try to "fix" it) but was tempted to do the install myself.

The trades are having issues because of the post WWII generations being told by their parents and the schools that you have to go to college to get a good paying job. Those in the trades of my generation are retiring now, if they can. A number of them that I'm acquainted with had their retirement in 401k's and lost a lot back in 2008-2010, which is why they are still working. There are few in the pipeline now, but it seems there is a concerted effort now to direct people in the skilled trades once again.

TheMillenniumRider's avatar

If I had a nickel for every time my parents said I had to do good in school or go to college because I didn’t want to be *gasp* a garbage man.

I think back about that and now wonder if I should have been a garbage man. Probably a pretty chill job to drive that truck and I bet they are getting paid well too.

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