Restaurant, hospitality workers are reluctant to return to low-paying positions

Employees are shown working at a Chipotle Mexican Grill on June 09, 2021 in Houston, Texas.
Employees are shown working at a Chipotle Mexican Grill on June 09, 2021 in Houston, Texas. Photo credit Brandon Bell/Getty Images

When the state reopened almost a month ago, customers returned to businesses in droves.

But those very businesses are struggling to keep their employees. Workers are leaving the labor force left and right, and companies don't seem willing to pay enough to get them back.

Sylvia Allegretto, Economist and Co-chair at the Center on Wage & Employment Dynamics at UC Berkeley, discussed why this is happening with KCBS Radio’s Holly Quan and Jeff Bell Wednesday morning.

"Workers in this country are typically thought to take whatever is offered to them," said Allegretto. Right now, there are a lot of unemployed workers despite many who are in fact going back to work. And more and more opportunities are cropping up online, she said.

"It’s no surprise workers are looking for their best options," she said.

The reshuffling is especially pronounced among restaurant and hospitality workers, said Allegretto. "Even if they did return to their jobs, they are now leaving."

Research is showing the highest quit rates Allegretto has ever seen. The lowest wage positions with low benefits are proving the hardest to fill.

Employers need to "sweeten the pot," if they want workers to consider the roles.

"If they stay that way, they’re going to be the last to be filled," said Allegretto.

Other reasons for a change in career now might be related to working from home, she said. People who’ve gotten used to it during the last year and a half might not want to return to work in person now.

But it’s not a one-size-fits-all scenario, she said. It’s unclear how desirable work-from-home really is to most workers. "It’s mixed."

"This is so new and something we should have had options around before, it’s going to take a while to settle," she said.