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Anchorage business owners fear worker burnout as hiring struggles persist – Alaska Public Media News

Anchorage business owners fear worker burnout as hiring struggles persist &Read MoreAngela Libal, owner and manager of Title Wave Books in Anchorage, walks by the “Sell or Trade” counter on Aug. 30, 2021. (Jeff Chen/Alaska Public Media)

Elissa Brown has co-owned Wild Scoops ice cream since 2015. 

“Here’s a little window where you can look into the test kitchen and see us making ice cream,” she said, peering into the glass at the Midtown scoop shop at kitchen staff prepping ingredients on a recent morning before they opened for business. “So yummy.”

Last summer, during the initial waves of the pandemic, business was so slow, Wild Scoops didn’t do much hiring, Brown said. 

This summer was different — at first, hiring looked promising, and then suddenly, it wasn’t.

Brown isn’t the only one feeling the strain. While this summer brought a gradual economic recovery, after a tough 2020, business owners in Anchorage say hiring remains a stubborn challenge. Many say it seems like there aren’t any applicants out there, and they’re worried about burning out the staff they do have.

RELATED: Millions lose jobless benefits this week. It doesn’t mean they’ll be rushing back to work.

At Wild Scoops, Brown said, they were turning down prospective employees at the beginning of the summer, thinking they were set for the season.

A few weeks later, she said, “the weather got warmer and the lines got longer. We started all of a sudden trying to recruit people. But then it seemed like every restaurant or retail space in town was also trying to find people.”

It felt like every week they were constantly interviewing and trying to hire new staff, she said. Without enough workers, employees were starting to feel burned out. 

“It’s a tricky cycle because there’ll be a day where someone’s like, ‘I just need a mental health day, it’s too much.’ So it’s like, ‘Okay, like take time off, do what you need.’ But then everyone else who’s stuck [working] is stuck short staffed and then they feel like they need mental health days,” she said.

To give the team more breathing room, Wild Scoops announced last month that it would start closing on Mondays, going from a seven days a week schedule to six. 

For now, Brown said, they have enough staff to make it into the fall, though she expects they will be hiring again soon.

Alaska has been facing a major labor shortage for months — and it’s unclear when it will ease. 

Consumer demand has bounced back faster than employers can find and onboard new employees, said Lennon Weller, an economist with the Alaska Department of Labor.

Messages on a whiteboard in the staff area at Title Wave Books in Anchorage encourage staff to mask up. (Jeff Chen/Alaska Public Media)

In June, the Dunleavy administration ended $300 federal unemployment benefits to “help people get back to work.” Weller said unemployment claims were already declining, and the trend doesn’t seem to have been affected by the ending of the extra benefits.

The state reported about 20,000 unemployment claims in July.

“We still have a significant number of jobs unfilled, a significant number of individuals unemployed, but whether or not those actually overlap and match the skill sets … it’s more complicated,” Weller said.

Economists say burnout is one possible cause of Alaska’s labor shortage, but there are a lot of other factors that are contributing as well, like a lack of affordable child care and the absence of J-1 visa seasonal workers this summer. Department of Labor economist Neal Fried said there are a range of hard-to-measure personal factors that could be contributing as well.

“Maybe they’re going back to school instead, maybe they’re changing careers, and it’s taking them longer to make those decisions,” he said. “Maybe more folks — and we will only know this as time goes by — are choosing not to enter the labor force.”

AJ Jones, a bookseller at Title Wave Books in Anchorage, re-stocks a shelf of books on Aug. 30, 2021. (Jeff Chen/Alaska Public Media)

For example, Fried said, some two-wage earner families may have decided that it makes more sense for one person to stay home with kids instead of paying for child care.

Lauren Blanchett owns clothing stores Tiny Ptarmigan and Portfolio in Midtown Anchorage. She said she hasn’t even started searching for employees because of how bad the hiring market looks. 

“Everywhere I’ve gone just as a consumer, all I see are ‘Help Wanted’ signs,” she said “I’ve even seen some that say we’ll meet or beat other offers within a certain geographic area. I don’t want to add something for no return.”

Blanchett said with fluctuations in consumer demand and the state of the pandemic, she’s worried about hiring more people, only to have to lay them off in a few weeks or months. That means she’s picking up the slack herself while trying to make sure her employees don’t work more than 40 hours a week.

The word “sabbatical” has been on her mind a lot lately.

“My work has doubled in the pandemic,” she said. “I am completely exhausted. I’m totally burnt out. And I just look forward to the day that, one, I can afford, and two, there are people that I can hire to just relieve some of my own personal workload.”

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While some businesses, like Wild Scoops, see their highest sales in summer, others, like Blanchett’s, have their busy seasons during back-to-school and winter holiday shopping. With no clear end to the current labor shortage, Blanchett said she could find herself in a tough spot if she’s not able to hire in the next few months.

“I might end up asking my older nieces like, ‘Hey, can you come in on a Saturday and just wrap gifts, or empty fitting rooms?’” she said. “But who knows? They may have already been snatched up by then!”

At Title Wave Books in Spenard, owner Angela Libal decided to start hiring again back in April. Her staff is about a third smaller than it was pre-pandemic, which means things can get overwhelming on busy days. She said hiring this spring and summer has been frustratingly different than in years past.

“We would maybe have 40, 50, 60 applicants. And then when we’d go to set up interviews, we’d have 10 or 12 people, but maybe only two would show up,” she said. “Trying to figure out, why are people booking an interview when they are not going to show up?”

Angela Libal, owner and manager of Title Wave Books in Anchorage, on Aug. 30, 2021. (Jeff Chen/Alaska Public Media)

Libal guessed that because everyone’s hiring, workers can be choosy about where they go.

Dawn Walsh, co-owner of ShuzyQ shoes in South Anchorage can relate. She’s been trying since March to bring on new hires. Her staff of 10 has dropped to three and she said old recruitment methods like word of mouth don’t seem to be enough anymore.

“Before, the issue was finding someone who really fit in and that had experience and that would work with our team well,” she said. “But now it’s that we’re not getting any applicants. At all.”

Walsh said they raised wages and gave the store manager a bonus this year — a common market response in a labor shortage, according to labor economist Weller.

“If we need to, we will pay more,” said Walsh. “We’re just nervous about losing anybody right now.”

She said, at first, she thought she might be competing with unemployment benefits, and that’s why she wasn’t getting a response. Now, she said, she thinks the pandemic has caused people to adjust their priorities.

“I just heard from an employee that’s going to college and she just said she’s not working weekends anymore,” said Walsh “And that’s good. It’s good if people want to make those lifestyle choices. It’s just not very good for us in retail.”

Brown, at Wild Scoops, said it’s been a hard 18 months for everyone, not just in retail. The list is long.

“The restaurant workers, the nurses, the doctors, the teachers, the single parents, the school-aged parents, school-aged kids, high schoolers… There’s so few people in groups who actually won out this last year and a half,” she said. “Everybody’s feeling the burnout.”

Anchorage business owners fear worker burnout as hiring struggles persist &

Most small business owners are middle-aged, not ‘cool kids’ the media loves – The Guardian

Most small business owners are middle-aged, not ‘cool kids’ the media loves&nbRead More

Most small business owners are middle-aged, not ‘cool kids’ the media loves

As older owners retire, millions of small businesses will change hands, and that means opportunities for young entrepreneurs

Last modified on Sun 11 Jul 2021 07.57 EDT

When you think of the typical small business do you think of the savvy and beautiful actor Anne Hathaway, who ran a Brooklyn-based fashion startup in The Intern? Or maybe you’re thinking of Jesse Eisenberg’s portrayal of Mark Zuckerberg in The Social Network?

TV ads show young and energetic entrepreneurs hustling their way to success. Business magazine covers at the airport feature the cool kids making cool millions. These are the young and beautiful faces of entrepreneurship that the media loves. The reality is the face of small business looks a lot more like me.

I’m 56 and I own a small business. I’m the real demographic. In fact, according to a new survey of more than 3,000 business owners conducted by Score, a non-profit organization affiliated with the Small Business Administration, 51% of US small businesses are owned by people older than 55, even though we represent only 21% of the population.

Yup. Small business owners – the majority of them – are middle-aged people like me.

These business owners, who are referred to in the Score study as “Encore Entrepreneurs”, have some pretty distinguishing characteristics other than wrinkles. According to the survey, we are 62% more likely to receive non-government aid and 20-46% more likely to be approved for government aid, including PPP loans, unemployment insurance and other sources of federal/state financial assistance, compared with younger business owners. Looks like the government appreciates experience over youth!

The study also found that instead of capitalizing on these funding opportunities, many of us prefer to rely on our personal finances, including savings (74%) and credit cards (36.6 %). We are also 52.3% more likely to finance our businesses using retirement savings, compared with younger entrepreneurs.

Most of us small business owners are not running those hot startups or building exciting apps. We own restaurants, gas stations, pizza shops and roofing companies. We manage projects, sell gaskets, pave roads and ship pallets of packaging materials. We’ve been doing this for decades. And we’re still going strong.

So what does that mean? Until newer generations slowly and inevitably take over, “old school” ways of doing business will continue to be the norm, and there will be resistance to the things that younger generations want and younger entrepreneurs are doing, such as adopting new technologies, moving to the “cloud”, implementing progressive benefits like working from home and unlimited paid time off. Unfortunately, old school owners will be slower to adapt to today’s more inclusive workplace environments and behaviors.

A lot of middle-aged business owners also means a coming boom in succession planning and exit strategies. BizBuySell, a business-selling marketplace, is already reporting a spike in companies buying and selling each other (at premium prices), and this trend will probably accelerate as the 51% approach retirement age. Employee Stock Ownership Plans – driven by older owners who want to pass their companies down to employees – are also on the rise, as are industries that cater to wealth management, retirement planning and tax advice.

Most importantly, it means a big opportunity for younger entrepreneurs who want to start their own companies. Do you really think these 51% have their successors lined up? Based on my client experience I can assure you they do not. According to James Walrack of First American Bank, 70% of America’s 12 million privately owned businesses, where Baby Boomer wealth is concentrated, are expected to change hands in the next 10 to 15 years. Yet 75% of business owners admit that they have not made a plan to transition the ownership and management of their companies when they are ready to step down.

For younger entrepreneurs, working your way up through the ranks of a company owned by one of these older entrepreneurs, with a plan to ultimately buy out the owner, is – to me – a more solid road to success than starting something from scratch.

So be patient, my young friends. Your time will come. ]

Most small business owners are middle-aged, not ‘cool kids’ the media loves&nb

What is Parler? Conservative social-media app hopes to rival Twitter – Business Insider

What is Parler? Conservative social-media app hopes to rival Twitter  Read MoreParler, a social-media app touted by Republican politicians and right-wing pundits, made it to the top of the App Store in the days following the 2020 election.
The app, which brands itself as a “free speech” platform, has “no fact checkers,” CEO John Matze told Forbes in June.
When someone signs up, Parler recommends “promoted members” that include Sen. Ted Cruz, Sean Hannity, and Dinesh D’Souza.
Parler has a “discover news” section that recommends posts from far-right blogs like The Epoch Times, which has promoted the unfounded claim that coronavirus was created in a Chinese military lab.
Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Conservative pundits and influencers are getting their followers to join a new app called Parler.

Parler shot to No. 1 on Apple’s App Store on Sunday, the day after major media outlets projected Joe Biden would win the 2020 presidential race. Parler had been downloaded nearly 1 million times within five days of Election Day, November 3.

While Twitter labeled many of President Donald Trump’s tweets after the election as “misleading,” Parler brands itself as a “free speech” social-media platform, and that emphasis means posts that spread untrue claims do not get labeled as misinformation. CEO John Matze told Forbes in June there are “no fact checkers” on the app.

Misinformation on the app may have already had real-world effects. “Stop the Steal,” a group that falsely claims Democrats “stole” the presidential election, may have mobilized protesters on Parler. Business Insider’s Paige Leskin found that the hashtag #StoptheSteal had more than 15,000 “parleys,” or mentions, on the platform over the weekend. Stop the Steal protesters gathered around vote-counting centers in Georgia, Nevada, and Michigan to demand that election workers stop tallying ballots.

Here’s a breakdown of what Parler is, how the app functions, and who controls it.

Parler did not immediately respond to Business Insider’s request for comment.

What is Parler?

Parler describes itself as “non-biased, free speech social media focused on protecting user’s rights.” Users can discover news related to politics, sports, and entertainment. They can also comment on and upvote posts, called “parleys.”

Its privacy policy says Parler makes “no guarantees as to the security or privacy of your information.”

Parler’s privacy policy says the company collects:

All information shared on the site, including photos, videos, and comments.IP addresses and other location information.A user’s searches, viewed posts, and the number of times they visited.

The policy says that user information is shared with vendors, service providers, and analytics partners.

Users who violate the company’s community guidelines can be removed from the app. The guidelines say posts that promote crime or unlawful acts, spam, copyright violations, content from terrorist organizations, or posts that otherwise interfere with Parler’s “welcoming, nonpartisan Public Square” can be removed.

Who owns Parler?

Matze and Jared Thomson, Parler’s chief technology officer, created the app in 2018.

Matze graduated from the University of Denver in 2014 and worked as a software engineer for Amazon Web Services before creating the app, his LinkedIn profile says.

Thomson wrote on LinkedIn that he graduated from the University of Denver in 2015 with a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree.

Dan Bongino, a pro-Trump Fox News contributor who has perpetuated misinformation about COVID-19, announced in June that he would take an ownership stake in Parler.

Matze told Forbes that he received funding for the app through angel investments, but he did not disclose the amount.

Who’s on Parler?

Though Parler’s tagline on the App Store is “unbiased social media,” Matze told Forbes that liberals accounted for a “very minute share of the population” and that the platform’s users were mainly Republican and right-wing influencers and politicians.

When a user signs up for the app, Parler suggests following “promoted members” including the prominent conservative pundits Sean Hannity and Dinesh D’Souza as well as politicians like Sen. Ted Cruz and Jo Jorgensen, the 2020 Libertarian presidential nominee.

Allana Akhtar/Business Insider

Several right-wing activists who have been barred from other social-media platforms have “promoted member” accounts on Parler. Laura Loomer, a self-proclaimed “proud Islamophobe” whom Facebook barred for violating its policies against “dangerous individuals,” joined in 2018 and has 659,000 followers on Parler. Milo Yiannopoulos, who has been barred from Twitter and Australia for inciting violence and harassment, is a promoted member with 176,000 followers.

Because of Parler’s lax rules on identifying false information, promoted members have spread baseless theories on the app. Trump’s campaign account — a promoted member with 1.8 million followers — said that “mail-in ballots have led to total and complete CHAOS.” In reality, despite some expected delays in counting votes, a record number of Americans were able to vote in 2020.

The conservative talk-show host Mark Levin, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, and the pro-Trump vloggers Diamond and Silk have also spread baseless claims of election fraud to their combined millions of followers. There is no evidence of election fraud, and experts and news outlets have debunked claims of voter fraud.

What’s on the Parler app?

Parler, like Twitter, allows users to post short messages, links, and photos to their followers.

Parler has a “discover news” section that recommends headlines from far-right blogs and news aggregators. These sites include Geller Report, founded by the anti-Muslim blogger Pamela Geller; The Epoch Times, which has promoted the unfounded claim that the coronavirus was created in a Chinese military lab; and The Federalist, which got suspended from Twitter for publishing an article instructing readers to deliberately infect young people with COVID-19.

The site has also recommended content from ESPN, TechCrunch, Ladders, and Page Six.

Parler and the far-right’s grip on the internet

Parler’s rise represents one way that conservative pundits and right-wing agitators have built communities online — and used them to spread false theories.

Ben Shapiro, who has spread misinformation about climate science and Islam, has one of the most popular podcasts in the country. QAnon, an outlandish conspiracy theory purporting that Trump is secretly battling a group of Satan-worshipping, child-trafficking Democrats plotting to oust him, has spread through Twitter, Facebook, and Parler, Business Insider reported. Right-wing pundits used Twitter and YouTube to spread the conspiracy theory that Bill Gates was responsible for COVID-19.

Some Democrats have said more must be done to match conservatives’ competency online. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has said that part of her Democratic colleagues’ challenge in securing down-ballot races this year was their failure to spend money on Facebook ads.

“Our party isn’t even online, not in a real way that exhibits competence,” Ocasio-Cortez told The New York Times.

What is Parler? Conservative social-media app hopes to rival Twitter  

Creating That Spotless Content Calendar to Boost Social Media Engagement of Your Brand – Atlanta Small Business Network

Creating That Spotless Content Calendar to Boost Social Media Engagement of YourRead More

A content calendar, also known as a publishing schedule or an editorial calendar is used for publications control on multiple channels: social media platforms, newspapers, blogs/videoblogs, emails, etc. The primary goal of any content calendar is ensuring that all relevant types of posts appear regularly on corresponding publishing channels. Therefore, such calendars are highly important for an internal organization of a publishing process. According to the tips shared by digital writers, an editorial calendar also makes it easier to refer to previously published content. Also, more links to the latter ensure better ranking on search engines.

The Usefulness of a Content Calendar

Sharing content calendars with advertisers helps to attract a latter and to better organize an act of advertising. The same is true for readers. Publishing (relevant) posts following a well-planned schedule train them to visit social media pages/accounts of a company at regular intervals. It works towards establishing a loyal readership. One good example of an editorial calendar is the one designed for the Special Reports rubric of the Financial Times magazine. It reports articles should be published more than one year and a half into the future.

Recommendations for Creating a Qualitative Content Calendar

Add Enough Detail

According to Maria Sotra, Forbes Councils Member and Vice President of Marketing at Geotab, one should aim to make an editorial plan ultra-detailed. First, this means creating a comprehensive list of topics, attempting to cover exhaustively subjects that are most relevant for readers. Second, it means specifying a publication’s type/format and whether it is part of promotional or editorial content. Different formats serve different goals. Besides, providing your audience with various content types will help retain their attention longer and will ensure better engagement. Some popular types of content are:

videos,
case studies,
infographics,
brochures,
event handouts (including for virtual events).

To better serve your readers, your content calendar could include synopses for articles you are going to publish. A title alone is often insufficient for inferring what will appear in any published piece. Hence, it might be useful to include a rough outline of a post/article if available. This isn’t obligatory for all articles, and it is not necessary to follow these outlines like 10 commandments when it’s time to publish. A subject exposed to more intense scrutiny dictates its rubrics or elements that might differ from originally anticipated ones.

Make It Resilient by Conferring it Flexibility

Some planned interviews might not work out, some topics might become irrelevant overnight. Others can emerge spontaneously requiring urgent attention from an entire team. Your content calendar is never set in stone, but sufficient effort is needed to confer at least some flexibility and resilience. This means including backup or alternative topics, specifying which topics have a higher priority. Some lower-priority topics could be omitted should the necessity arise. Fortunately, when your topic is automobile news, it is generally easy to come up with an alternative or backup ideas that would still prove relevant for many readers.

There may be occasions when your team won’t be able to deliver publications on time. A life-saving solution, in this case, might be to contract a third party that provides on-demand writing services. Among the latter, a huge niche is occupied by services that help students with academic assignments. As writing expert Estelle Liotard states concerning one of these services, “While GetGoodGrade thesis writing service focuses mainly on helping students with their theses or academic papers, they could easily provide you with a case study in business or marketing, or many, many other types of specialized content.” Those who are ready to take this approach one step further might even use such third-party content for entire rubrics on their websites or social media pages.

Make It an Ongoing Team Effort

Creating a content calendar should bring together all people involved for some brainstorming sessions. That is how to capitalize on the diversity of views your team can produce, even if some of them could be conflicting. Once completed, this product of teamwork would serve as a guiding document for an entire team. It allows them to see a bigger picture and better direct their efforts. Also, it helps avoid work on overlapping or redundant content and confusion as well as perception of inefficiency it can cause. As your calendar needs to be adapted/updated, this should be done transparently so that your entire team is aware. You can use the most basic collaboration software tools for this purpose (such as Google Sheets).

Don’t Limit the Diversity of Content Planned

Because it features timelines and befriending/following, social media is a powerful tool for retaining customer’s attention. A typical format and length of a post vary greatly from one social media platform to another. Yet, they are usually significantly limited for each platform. This shouldn’t affect the diversity of publications that will be planned in your content calendar.

For instance, automotive industry news can benefit a lot from:

high-resolution image galleries from an occasional auto show,
rotatable 3D representations of car models,
diagrams and interactive charts comparing car specs,
long reads and lengthy videos, etc.

Oftentimes, social media platforms are poorly adapted or incapable to display such content or just too slow to process it. But social media is only needed to present readers with an appealing snippet of information – the rest of your content in whatever format could be accessed on the corresponding website through the accompanying link. Videos are among the types of content that work great on social media – in general, videos attract more traffic, lead to higher conversion rates, and offer a better ROI.

Final Thoughts

The link established with the audience via social media is a valuable instrument. It can be exploited to engage with it repeatedly for various purposes, including for making direct sales proposals. But to maintain visibility on social media, it is instrumental to publish original content frequently and at regular intervals. This is furthermore amplified by the way (timeline) recommendation algorithms work on these platforms. A content calendar can make the process of publishing much more efficient and organized, benefiting the content publishers, the customer audience, and even the advertisers.

The Atlanta Small Business Network, from start-up to success, we are your go-to resource for small business news, expert advice, information, and event coverage.

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Creating That Spotless Content Calendar to Boost Social Media Engagement of Your

Anchorage business owners fear worker burnout as hiring struggles persist – Alaska Public Media News

Anchorage business owners fear worker burnout as hiring struggles persist &Read MoreAngela Libal, owner and manager of Title Wave Books in Anchorage, walks by the “Sell or Trade” counter on Aug. 30, 2021. (Jeff Chen/Alaska Public Media)

Elissa Brown has co-owned Wild Scoops ice cream since 2015. 

“Here’s a little window where you can look into the test kitchen and see us making ice cream,” she said, peering into the glass at the Midtown scoop shop at kitchen staff prepping ingredients on a recent morning before they opened for business. “So yummy.”

Last summer, during the initial waves of the pandemic, business was so slow, Wild Scoops didn’t do much hiring, Brown said. 

This summer was different — at first, hiring looked promising, and then suddenly, it wasn’t.

Brown isn’t the only one feeling the strain. While this summer brought a gradual economic recovery, after a tough 2020, business owners in Anchorage say hiring remains a stubborn challenge. Many say it seems like there aren’t any applicants out there, and they’re worried about burning out the staff they do have.

RELATED: Millions lose jobless benefits this week. It doesn’t mean they’ll be rushing back to work.

At Wild Scoops, Brown said, they were turning down prospective employees at the beginning of the summer, thinking they were set for the season.

A few weeks later, she said, “the weather got warmer and the lines got longer. We started all of a sudden trying to recruit people. But then it seemed like every restaurant or retail space in town was also trying to find people.”

It felt like every week they were constantly interviewing and trying to hire new staff, she said. Without enough workers, employees were starting to feel burned out. 

“It’s a tricky cycle because there’ll be a day where someone’s like, ‘I just need a mental health day, it’s too much.’ So it’s like, ‘Okay, like take time off, do what you need.’ But then everyone else who’s stuck [working] is stuck short staffed and then they feel like they need mental health days,” she said.

To give the team more breathing room, Wild Scoops announced last month that it would start closing on Mondays, going from a seven days a week schedule to six. 

For now, Brown said, they have enough staff to make it into the fall, though she expects they will be hiring again soon.

Alaska has been facing a major labor shortage for months — and it’s unclear when it will ease. 

Consumer demand has bounced back faster than employers can find and onboard new employees, said Lennon Weller, an economist with the Alaska Department of Labor.

Messages on a whiteboard in the staff area at Title Wave Books in Anchorage encourage staff to mask up. (Jeff Chen/Alaska Public Media)

In June, the Dunleavy administration ended $300 federal unemployment benefits to “help people get back to work.” Weller said unemployment claims were already declining, and the trend doesn’t seem to have been affected by the ending of the extra benefits.

The state reported about 20,000 unemployment claims in July.

“We still have a significant number of jobs unfilled, a significant number of individuals unemployed, but whether or not those actually overlap and match the skill sets … it’s more complicated,” Weller said.

Economists say burnout is one possible cause of Alaska’s labor shortage, but there are a lot of other factors that are contributing as well, like a lack of affordable child care and the absence of J-1 visa seasonal workers this summer. Department of Labor economist Neal Fried said there are a range of hard-to-measure personal factors that could be contributing as well.

“Maybe they’re going back to school instead, maybe they’re changing careers, and it’s taking them longer to make those decisions,” he said. “Maybe more folks — and we will only know this as time goes by — are choosing not to enter the labor force.”

AJ Jones, a bookseller at Title Wave Books in Anchorage, re-stocks a shelf of books on Aug. 30, 2021. (Jeff Chen/Alaska Public Media)

For example, Fried said, some two-wage earner families may have decided that it makes more sense for one person to stay home with kids instead of paying for child care.

Lauren Blanchett owns clothing stores Tiny Ptarmigan and Portfolio in Midtown Anchorage. She said she hasn’t even started searching for employees because of how bad the hiring market looks. 

“Everywhere I’ve gone just as a consumer, all I see are ‘Help Wanted’ signs,” she said “I’ve even seen some that say we’ll meet or beat other offers within a certain geographic area. I don’t want to add something for no return.”

Blanchett said with fluctuations in consumer demand and the state of the pandemic, she’s worried about hiring more people, only to have to lay them off in a few weeks or months. That means she’s picking up the slack herself while trying to make sure her employees don’t work more than 40 hours a week.

The word “sabbatical” has been on her mind a lot lately.

“My work has doubled in the pandemic,” she said. “I am completely exhausted. I’m totally burnt out. And I just look forward to the day that, one, I can afford, and two, there are people that I can hire to just relieve some of my own personal workload.”

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While some businesses, like Wild Scoops, see their highest sales in summer, others, like Blanchett’s, have their busy seasons during back-to-school and winter holiday shopping. With no clear end to the current labor shortage, Blanchett said she could find herself in a tough spot if she’s not able to hire in the next few months.

“I might end up asking my older nieces like, ‘Hey, can you come in on a Saturday and just wrap gifts, or empty fitting rooms?’” she said. “But who knows? They may have already been snatched up by then!”

At Title Wave Books in Spenard, owner Angela Libal decided to start hiring again back in April. Her staff is about a third smaller than it was pre-pandemic, which means things can get overwhelming on busy days. She said hiring this spring and summer has been frustratingly different than in years past.

“We would maybe have 40, 50, 60 applicants. And then when we’d go to set up interviews, we’d have 10 or 12 people, but maybe only two would show up,” she said. “Trying to figure out, why are people booking an interview when they are not going to show up?”

Angela Libal, owner and manager of Title Wave Books in Anchorage, on Aug. 30, 2021. (Jeff Chen/Alaska Public Media)

Libal guessed that because everyone’s hiring, workers can be choosy about where they go.

Dawn Walsh, co-owner of ShuzyQ shoes in South Anchorage can relate. She’s been trying since March to bring on new hires. Her staff of 10 has dropped to three and she said old recruitment methods like word of mouth don’t seem to be enough anymore.

“Before, the issue was finding someone who really fit in and that had experience and that would work with our team well,” she said. “But now it’s that we’re not getting any applicants. At all.”

Walsh said they raised wages and gave the store manager a bonus this year — a common market response in a labor shortage, according to labor economist Weller.

“If we need to, we will pay more,” said Walsh. “We’re just nervous about losing anybody right now.”

She said, at first, she thought she might be competing with unemployment benefits, and that’s why she wasn’t getting a response. Now, she said, she thinks the pandemic has caused people to adjust their priorities.

“I just heard from an employee that’s going to college and she just said she’s not working weekends anymore,” said Walsh “And that’s good. It’s good if people want to make those lifestyle choices. It’s just not very good for us in retail.”

Brown, at Wild Scoops, said it’s been a hard 18 months for everyone, not just in retail. The list is long.

“The restaurant workers, the nurses, the doctors, the teachers, the single parents, the school-aged parents, school-aged kids, high schoolers… There’s so few people in groups who actually won out this last year and a half,” she said. “Everybody’s feeling the burnout.”

Anchorage business owners fear worker burnout as hiring struggles persist &

Anchorage business owners fear worker burnout as hiring struggles persist – Alaska Public Media News

Anchorage business owners fear worker burnout as hiring struggles persist &Read MoreAngela Libal, owner and manager of Title Wave Books in Anchorage, walks by the “Sell or Trade” counter on Aug. 30, 2021. (Jeff Chen/Alaska Public Media)

Elissa Brown has co-owned Wild Scoops ice cream since 2015. 

“Here’s a little window where you can look into the test kitchen and see us making ice cream,” she said, peering into the glass at the Midtown scoop shop at kitchen staff prepping ingredients on a recent morning before they opened for business. “So yummy.”

Last summer, during the initial waves of the pandemic, business was so slow, Wild Scoops didn’t do much hiring, Brown said. 

This summer was different — at first, hiring looked promising, and then suddenly, it wasn’t.

Brown isn’t the only one feeling the strain. While this summer brought a gradual economic recovery, after a tough 2020, business owners in Anchorage say hiring remains a stubborn challenge. Many say it seems like there aren’t any applicants out there, and they’re worried about burning out the staff they do have.

RELATED: Millions lose jobless benefits this week. It doesn’t mean they’ll be rushing back to work.

At Wild Scoops, Brown said, they were turning down prospective employees at the beginning of the summer, thinking they were set for the season.

A few weeks later, she said, “the weather got warmer and the lines got longer. We started all of a sudden trying to recruit people. But then it seemed like every restaurant or retail space in town was also trying to find people.”

It felt like every week they were constantly interviewing and trying to hire new staff, she said. Without enough workers, employees were starting to feel burned out. 

“It’s a tricky cycle because there’ll be a day where someone’s like, ‘I just need a mental health day, it’s too much.’ So it’s like, ‘Okay, like take time off, do what you need.’ But then everyone else who’s stuck [working] is stuck short staffed and then they feel like they need mental health days,” she said.

To give the team more breathing room, Wild Scoops announced last month that it would start closing on Mondays, going from a seven days a week schedule to six. 

For now, Brown said, they have enough staff to make it into the fall, though she expects they will be hiring again soon.

Alaska has been facing a major labor shortage for months — and it’s unclear when it will ease. 

Consumer demand has bounced back faster than employers can find and onboard new employees, said Lennon Weller, an economist with the Alaska Department of Labor.

Messages on a whiteboard in the staff area at Title Wave Books in Anchorage encourage staff to mask up. (Jeff Chen/Alaska Public Media)

In June, the Dunleavy administration ended $300 federal unemployment benefits to “help people get back to work.” Weller said unemployment claims were already declining, and the trend doesn’t seem to have been affected by the ending of the extra benefits.

The state reported about 20,000 unemployment claims in July.

“We still have a significant number of jobs unfilled, a significant number of individuals unemployed, but whether or not those actually overlap and match the skill sets … it’s more complicated,” Weller said.

Economists say burnout is one possible cause of Alaska’s labor shortage, but there are a lot of other factors that are contributing as well, like a lack of affordable child care and the absence of J-1 visa seasonal workers this summer. Department of Labor economist Neal Fried said there are a range of hard-to-measure personal factors that could be contributing as well.

“Maybe they’re going back to school instead, maybe they’re changing careers, and it’s taking them longer to make those decisions,” he said. “Maybe more folks — and we will only know this as time goes by — are choosing not to enter the labor force.”

AJ Jones, a bookseller at Title Wave Books in Anchorage, re-stocks a shelf of books on Aug. 30, 2021. (Jeff Chen/Alaska Public Media)

For example, Fried said, some two-wage earner families may have decided that it makes more sense for one person to stay home with kids instead of paying for child care.

Lauren Blanchett owns clothing stores Tiny Ptarmigan and Portfolio in Midtown Anchorage. She said she hasn’t even started searching for employees because of how bad the hiring market looks. 

“Everywhere I’ve gone just as a consumer, all I see are ‘Help Wanted’ signs,” she said “I’ve even seen some that say we’ll meet or beat other offers within a certain geographic area. I don’t want to add something for no return.”

Blanchett said with fluctuations in consumer demand and the state of the pandemic, she’s worried about hiring more people, only to have to lay them off in a few weeks or months. That means she’s picking up the slack herself while trying to make sure her employees don’t work more than 40 hours a week.

The word “sabbatical” has been on her mind a lot lately.

“My work has doubled in the pandemic,” she said. “I am completely exhausted. I’m totally burnt out. And I just look forward to the day that, one, I can afford, and two, there are people that I can hire to just relieve some of my own personal workload.”

[Sign up for Alaska Public Media’s daily newsletter to get our top stories delivered to your inbox.]

While some businesses, like Wild Scoops, see their highest sales in summer, others, like Blanchett’s, have their busy seasons during back-to-school and winter holiday shopping. With no clear end to the current labor shortage, Blanchett said she could find herself in a tough spot if she’s not able to hire in the next few months.

“I might end up asking my older nieces like, ‘Hey, can you come in on a Saturday and just wrap gifts, or empty fitting rooms?’” she said. “But who knows? They may have already been snatched up by then!”

At Title Wave Books in Spenard, owner Angela Libal decided to start hiring again back in April. Her staff is about a third smaller than it was pre-pandemic, which means things can get overwhelming on busy days. She said hiring this spring and summer has been frustratingly different than in years past.

“We would maybe have 40, 50, 60 applicants. And then when we’d go to set up interviews, we’d have 10 or 12 people, but maybe only two would show up,” she said. “Trying to figure out, why are people booking an interview when they are not going to show up?”

Angela Libal, owner and manager of Title Wave Books in Anchorage, on Aug. 30, 2021. (Jeff Chen/Alaska Public Media)

Libal guessed that because everyone’s hiring, workers can be choosy about where they go.

Dawn Walsh, co-owner of ShuzyQ shoes in South Anchorage can relate. She’s been trying since March to bring on new hires. Her staff of 10 has dropped to three and she said old recruitment methods like word of mouth don’t seem to be enough anymore.

“Before, the issue was finding someone who really fit in and that had experience and that would work with our team well,” she said. “But now it’s that we’re not getting any applicants. At all.”

Walsh said they raised wages and gave the store manager a bonus this year — a common market response in a labor shortage, according to labor economist Weller.

“If we need to, we will pay more,” said Walsh. “We’re just nervous about losing anybody right now.”

She said, at first, she thought she might be competing with unemployment benefits, and that’s why she wasn’t getting a response. Now, she said, she thinks the pandemic has caused people to adjust their priorities.

“I just heard from an employee that’s going to college and she just said she’s not working weekends anymore,” said Walsh “And that’s good. It’s good if people want to make those lifestyle choices. It’s just not very good for us in retail.”

Brown, at Wild Scoops, said it’s been a hard 18 months for everyone, not just in retail. The list is long.

“The restaurant workers, the nurses, the doctors, the teachers, the single parents, the school-aged parents, school-aged kids, high schoolers… There’s so few people in groups who actually won out this last year and a half,” she said. “Everybody’s feeling the burnout.”

Anchorage business owners fear worker burnout as hiring struggles persist &

Anchorage business owners fear worker burnout as hiring struggles persist – Alaska Public Media News

Anchorage business owners fear worker burnout as hiring struggles persist &Read MoreAngela Libal, owner and manager of Title Wave Books in Anchorage, walks by the “Sell or Trade” counter on Aug. 30, 2021. (Jeff Chen/Alaska Public Media)

Elissa Brown has co-owned Wild Scoops ice cream since 2015. 

“Here’s a little window where you can look into the test kitchen and see us making ice cream,” she said, peering into the glass at the Midtown scoop shop at kitchen staff prepping ingredients on a recent morning before they opened for business. “So yummy.”

Last summer, during the initial waves of the pandemic, business was so slow, Wild Scoops didn’t do much hiring, Brown said. 

This summer was different — at first, hiring looked promising, and then suddenly, it wasn’t.

Brown isn’t the only one feeling the strain. While this summer brought a gradual economic recovery, after a tough 2020, business owners in Anchorage say hiring remains a stubborn challenge. Many say it seems like there aren’t any applicants out there, and they’re worried about burning out the staff they do have.

RELATED: Millions lose jobless benefits this week. It doesn’t mean they’ll be rushing back to work.

At Wild Scoops, Brown said, they were turning down prospective employees at the beginning of the summer, thinking they were set for the season.

A few weeks later, she said, “the weather got warmer and the lines got longer. We started all of a sudden trying to recruit people. But then it seemed like every restaurant or retail space in town was also trying to find people.”

It felt like every week they were constantly interviewing and trying to hire new staff, she said. Without enough workers, employees were starting to feel burned out. 

“It’s a tricky cycle because there’ll be a day where someone’s like, ‘I just need a mental health day, it’s too much.’ So it’s like, ‘Okay, like take time off, do what you need.’ But then everyone else who’s stuck [working] is stuck short staffed and then they feel like they need mental health days,” she said.

To give the team more breathing room, Wild Scoops announced last month that it would start closing on Mondays, going from a seven days a week schedule to six. 

For now, Brown said, they have enough staff to make it into the fall, though she expects they will be hiring again soon.

Alaska has been facing a major labor shortage for months — and it’s unclear when it will ease. 

Consumer demand has bounced back faster than employers can find and onboard new employees, said Lennon Weller, an economist with the Alaska Department of Labor.

Messages on a whiteboard in the staff area at Title Wave Books in Anchorage encourage staff to mask up. (Jeff Chen/Alaska Public Media)

In June, the Dunleavy administration ended $300 federal unemployment benefits to “help people get back to work.” Weller said unemployment claims were already declining, and the trend doesn’t seem to have been affected by the ending of the extra benefits.

The state reported about 20,000 unemployment claims in July.

“We still have a significant number of jobs unfilled, a significant number of individuals unemployed, but whether or not those actually overlap and match the skill sets … it’s more complicated,” Weller said.

Economists say burnout is one possible cause of Alaska’s labor shortage, but there are a lot of other factors that are contributing as well, like a lack of affordable child care and the absence of J-1 visa seasonal workers this summer. Department of Labor economist Neal Fried said there are a range of hard-to-measure personal factors that could be contributing as well.

“Maybe they’re going back to school instead, maybe they’re changing careers, and it’s taking them longer to make those decisions,” he said. “Maybe more folks — and we will only know this as time goes by — are choosing not to enter the labor force.”

AJ Jones, a bookseller at Title Wave Books in Anchorage, re-stocks a shelf of books on Aug. 30, 2021. (Jeff Chen/Alaska Public Media)

For example, Fried said, some two-wage earner families may have decided that it makes more sense for one person to stay home with kids instead of paying for child care.

Lauren Blanchett owns clothing stores Tiny Ptarmigan and Portfolio in Midtown Anchorage. She said she hasn’t even started searching for employees because of how bad the hiring market looks. 

“Everywhere I’ve gone just as a consumer, all I see are ‘Help Wanted’ signs,” she said “I’ve even seen some that say we’ll meet or beat other offers within a certain geographic area. I don’t want to add something for no return.”

Blanchett said with fluctuations in consumer demand and the state of the pandemic, she’s worried about hiring more people, only to have to lay them off in a few weeks or months. That means she’s picking up the slack herself while trying to make sure her employees don’t work more than 40 hours a week.

The word “sabbatical” has been on her mind a lot lately.

“My work has doubled in the pandemic,” she said. “I am completely exhausted. I’m totally burnt out. And I just look forward to the day that, one, I can afford, and two, there are people that I can hire to just relieve some of my own personal workload.”

[Sign up for Alaska Public Media’s daily newsletter to get our top stories delivered to your inbox.]

While some businesses, like Wild Scoops, see their highest sales in summer, others, like Blanchett’s, have their busy seasons during back-to-school and winter holiday shopping. With no clear end to the current labor shortage, Blanchett said she could find herself in a tough spot if she’s not able to hire in the next few months.

“I might end up asking my older nieces like, ‘Hey, can you come in on a Saturday and just wrap gifts, or empty fitting rooms?’” she said. “But who knows? They may have already been snatched up by then!”

At Title Wave Books in Spenard, owner Angela Libal decided to start hiring again back in April. Her staff is about a third smaller than it was pre-pandemic, which means things can get overwhelming on busy days. She said hiring this spring and summer has been frustratingly different than in years past.

“We would maybe have 40, 50, 60 applicants. And then when we’d go to set up interviews, we’d have 10 or 12 people, but maybe only two would show up,” she said. “Trying to figure out, why are people booking an interview when they are not going to show up?”

Angela Libal, owner and manager of Title Wave Books in Anchorage, on Aug. 30, 2021. (Jeff Chen/Alaska Public Media)

Libal guessed that because everyone’s hiring, workers can be choosy about where they go.

Dawn Walsh, co-owner of ShuzyQ shoes in South Anchorage can relate. She’s been trying since March to bring on new hires. Her staff of 10 has dropped to three and she said old recruitment methods like word of mouth don’t seem to be enough anymore.

“Before, the issue was finding someone who really fit in and that had experience and that would work with our team well,” she said. “But now it’s that we’re not getting any applicants. At all.”

Walsh said they raised wages and gave the store manager a bonus this year — a common market response in a labor shortage, according to labor economist Weller.

“If we need to, we will pay more,” said Walsh. “We’re just nervous about losing anybody right now.”

She said, at first, she thought she might be competing with unemployment benefits, and that’s why she wasn’t getting a response. Now, she said, she thinks the pandemic has caused people to adjust their priorities.

“I just heard from an employee that’s going to college and she just said she’s not working weekends anymore,” said Walsh “And that’s good. It’s good if people want to make those lifestyle choices. It’s just not very good for us in retail.”

Brown, at Wild Scoops, said it’s been a hard 18 months for everyone, not just in retail. The list is long.

“The restaurant workers, the nurses, the doctors, the teachers, the single parents, the school-aged parents, school-aged kids, high schoolers… There’s so few people in groups who actually won out this last year and a half,” she said. “Everybody’s feeling the burnout.”

Anchorage business owners fear worker burnout as hiring struggles persist &

Anchorage business owners fear worker burnout as hiring struggles persist – Alaska Public Media News

Anchorage business owners fear worker burnout as hiring struggles persist &Read MoreAngela Libal, owner and manager of Title Wave Books in Anchorage, walks by the “Sell or Trade” counter on Aug. 30, 2021. (Jeff Chen/Alaska Public Media)

Elissa Brown has co-owned Wild Scoops ice cream since 2015. 

“Here’s a little window where you can look into the test kitchen and see us making ice cream,” she said, peering into the glass at the Midtown scoop shop at kitchen staff prepping ingredients on a recent morning before they opened for business. “So yummy.”

Last summer, during the initial waves of the pandemic, business was so slow, Wild Scoops didn’t do much hiring, Brown said. 

This summer was different — at first, hiring looked promising, and then suddenly, it wasn’t.

Brown isn’t the only one feeling the strain. While this summer brought a gradual economic recovery, after a tough 2020, business owners in Anchorage say hiring remains a stubborn challenge. Many say it seems like there aren’t any applicants out there, and they’re worried about burning out the staff they do have.

RELATED: Millions lose jobless benefits this week. It doesn’t mean they’ll be rushing back to work.

At Wild Scoops, Brown said, they were turning down prospective employees at the beginning of the summer, thinking they were set for the season.

A few weeks later, she said, “the weather got warmer and the lines got longer. We started all of a sudden trying to recruit people. But then it seemed like every restaurant or retail space in town was also trying to find people.”

It felt like every week they were constantly interviewing and trying to hire new staff, she said. Without enough workers, employees were starting to feel burned out. 

“It’s a tricky cycle because there’ll be a day where someone’s like, ‘I just need a mental health day, it’s too much.’ So it’s like, ‘Okay, like take time off, do what you need.’ But then everyone else who’s stuck [working] is stuck short staffed and then they feel like they need mental health days,” she said.

To give the team more breathing room, Wild Scoops announced last month that it would start closing on Mondays, going from a seven days a week schedule to six. 

For now, Brown said, they have enough staff to make it into the fall, though she expects they will be hiring again soon.

Alaska has been facing a major labor shortage for months — and it’s unclear when it will ease. 

Consumer demand has bounced back faster than employers can find and onboard new employees, said Lennon Weller, an economist with the Alaska Department of Labor.

Messages on a whiteboard in the staff area at Title Wave Books in Anchorage encourage staff to mask up. (Jeff Chen/Alaska Public Media)

In June, the Dunleavy administration ended $300 federal unemployment benefits to “help people get back to work.” Weller said unemployment claims were already declining, and the trend doesn’t seem to have been affected by the ending of the extra benefits.

The state reported about 20,000 unemployment claims in July.

“We still have a significant number of jobs unfilled, a significant number of individuals unemployed, but whether or not those actually overlap and match the skill sets … it’s more complicated,” Weller said.

Economists say burnout is one possible cause of Alaska’s labor shortage, but there are a lot of other factors that are contributing as well, like a lack of affordable child care and the absence of J-1 visa seasonal workers this summer. Department of Labor economist Neal Fried said there are a range of hard-to-measure personal factors that could be contributing as well.

“Maybe they’re going back to school instead, maybe they’re changing careers, and it’s taking them longer to make those decisions,” he said. “Maybe more folks — and we will only know this as time goes by — are choosing not to enter the labor force.”

AJ Jones, a bookseller at Title Wave Books in Anchorage, re-stocks a shelf of books on Aug. 30, 2021. (Jeff Chen/Alaska Public Media)

For example, Fried said, some two-wage earner families may have decided that it makes more sense for one person to stay home with kids instead of paying for child care.

Lauren Blanchett owns clothing stores Tiny Ptarmigan and Portfolio in Midtown Anchorage. She said she hasn’t even started searching for employees because of how bad the hiring market looks. 

“Everywhere I’ve gone just as a consumer, all I see are ‘Help Wanted’ signs,” she said “I’ve even seen some that say we’ll meet or beat other offers within a certain geographic area. I don’t want to add something for no return.”

Blanchett said with fluctuations in consumer demand and the state of the pandemic, she’s worried about hiring more people, only to have to lay them off in a few weeks or months. That means she’s picking up the slack herself while trying to make sure her employees don’t work more than 40 hours a week.

The word “sabbatical” has been on her mind a lot lately.

“My work has doubled in the pandemic,” she said. “I am completely exhausted. I’m totally burnt out. And I just look forward to the day that, one, I can afford, and two, there are people that I can hire to just relieve some of my own personal workload.”

[Sign up for Alaska Public Media’s daily newsletter to get our top stories delivered to your inbox.]

While some businesses, like Wild Scoops, see their highest sales in summer, others, like Blanchett’s, have their busy seasons during back-to-school and winter holiday shopping. With no clear end to the current labor shortage, Blanchett said she could find herself in a tough spot if she’s not able to hire in the next few months.

“I might end up asking my older nieces like, ‘Hey, can you come in on a Saturday and just wrap gifts, or empty fitting rooms?’” she said. “But who knows? They may have already been snatched up by then!”

At Title Wave Books in Spenard, owner Angela Libal decided to start hiring again back in April. Her staff is about a third smaller than it was pre-pandemic, which means things can get overwhelming on busy days. She said hiring this spring and summer has been frustratingly different than in years past.

“We would maybe have 40, 50, 60 applicants. And then when we’d go to set up interviews, we’d have 10 or 12 people, but maybe only two would show up,” she said. “Trying to figure out, why are people booking an interview when they are not going to show up?”

Angela Libal, owner and manager of Title Wave Books in Anchorage, on Aug. 30, 2021. (Jeff Chen/Alaska Public Media)

Libal guessed that because everyone’s hiring, workers can be choosy about where they go.

Dawn Walsh, co-owner of ShuzyQ shoes in South Anchorage can relate. She’s been trying since March to bring on new hires. Her staff of 10 has dropped to three and she said old recruitment methods like word of mouth don’t seem to be enough anymore.

“Before, the issue was finding someone who really fit in and that had experience and that would work with our team well,” she said. “But now it’s that we’re not getting any applicants. At all.”

Walsh said they raised wages and gave the store manager a bonus this year — a common market response in a labor shortage, according to labor economist Weller.

“If we need to, we will pay more,” said Walsh. “We’re just nervous about losing anybody right now.”

She said, at first, she thought she might be competing with unemployment benefits, and that’s why she wasn’t getting a response. Now, she said, she thinks the pandemic has caused people to adjust their priorities.

“I just heard from an employee that’s going to college and she just said she’s not working weekends anymore,” said Walsh “And that’s good. It’s good if people want to make those lifestyle choices. It’s just not very good for us in retail.”

Brown, at Wild Scoops, said it’s been a hard 18 months for everyone, not just in retail. The list is long.

“The restaurant workers, the nurses, the doctors, the teachers, the single parents, the school-aged parents, school-aged kids, high schoolers… There’s so few people in groups who actually won out this last year and a half,” she said. “Everybody’s feeling the burnout.”

Anchorage business owners fear worker burnout as hiring struggles persist &

Anchorage business owners fear worker burnout as hiring struggles persist – Alaska Public Media News

Anchorage business owners fear worker burnout as hiring struggles persist &Read MoreAngela Libal, owner and manager of Title Wave Books in Anchorage, walks by the “Sell or Trade” counter on Aug. 30, 2021. (Jeff Chen/Alaska Public Media)

Elissa Brown has co-owned Wild Scoops ice cream since 2015. 

“Here’s a little window where you can look into the test kitchen and see us making ice cream,” she said, peering into the glass at the Midtown scoop shop at kitchen staff prepping ingredients on a recent morning before they opened for business. “So yummy.”

Last summer, during the initial waves of the pandemic, business was so slow, Wild Scoops didn’t do much hiring, Brown said. 

This summer was different — at first, hiring looked promising, and then suddenly, it wasn’t.

Brown isn’t the only one feeling the strain. While this summer brought a gradual economic recovery, after a tough 2020, business owners in Anchorage say hiring remains a stubborn challenge. Many say it seems like there aren’t any applicants out there, and they’re worried about burning out the staff they do have.

RELATED: Millions lose jobless benefits this week. It doesn’t mean they’ll be rushing back to work.

At Wild Scoops, Brown said, they were turning down prospective employees at the beginning of the summer, thinking they were set for the season.

A few weeks later, she said, “the weather got warmer and the lines got longer. We started all of a sudden trying to recruit people. But then it seemed like every restaurant or retail space in town was also trying to find people.”

It felt like every week they were constantly interviewing and trying to hire new staff, she said. Without enough workers, employees were starting to feel burned out. 

“It’s a tricky cycle because there’ll be a day where someone’s like, ‘I just need a mental health day, it’s too much.’ So it’s like, ‘Okay, like take time off, do what you need.’ But then everyone else who’s stuck [working] is stuck short staffed and then they feel like they need mental health days,” she said.

To give the team more breathing room, Wild Scoops announced last month that it would start closing on Mondays, going from a seven days a week schedule to six. 

For now, Brown said, they have enough staff to make it into the fall, though she expects they will be hiring again soon.

Alaska has been facing a major labor shortage for months — and it’s unclear when it will ease. 

Consumer demand has bounced back faster than employers can find and onboard new employees, said Lennon Weller, an economist with the Alaska Department of Labor.

Messages on a whiteboard in the staff area at Title Wave Books in Anchorage encourage staff to mask up. (Jeff Chen/Alaska Public Media)

In June, the Dunleavy administration ended $300 federal unemployment benefits to “help people get back to work.” Weller said unemployment claims were already declining, and the trend doesn’t seem to have been affected by the ending of the extra benefits.

The state reported about 20,000 unemployment claims in July.

“We still have a significant number of jobs unfilled, a significant number of individuals unemployed, but whether or not those actually overlap and match the skill sets … it’s more complicated,” Weller said.

Economists say burnout is one possible cause of Alaska’s labor shortage, but there are a lot of other factors that are contributing as well, like a lack of affordable child care and the absence of J-1 visa seasonal workers this summer. Department of Labor economist Neal Fried said there are a range of hard-to-measure personal factors that could be contributing as well.

“Maybe they’re going back to school instead, maybe they’re changing careers, and it’s taking them longer to make those decisions,” he said. “Maybe more folks — and we will only know this as time goes by — are choosing not to enter the labor force.”

AJ Jones, a bookseller at Title Wave Books in Anchorage, re-stocks a shelf of books on Aug. 30, 2021. (Jeff Chen/Alaska Public Media)

For example, Fried said, some two-wage earner families may have decided that it makes more sense for one person to stay home with kids instead of paying for child care.

Lauren Blanchett owns clothing stores Tiny Ptarmigan and Portfolio in Midtown Anchorage. She said she hasn’t even started searching for employees because of how bad the hiring market looks. 

“Everywhere I’ve gone just as a consumer, all I see are ‘Help Wanted’ signs,” she said “I’ve even seen some that say we’ll meet or beat other offers within a certain geographic area. I don’t want to add something for no return.”

Blanchett said with fluctuations in consumer demand and the state of the pandemic, she’s worried about hiring more people, only to have to lay them off in a few weeks or months. That means she’s picking up the slack herself while trying to make sure her employees don’t work more than 40 hours a week.

The word “sabbatical” has been on her mind a lot lately.

“My work has doubled in the pandemic,” she said. “I am completely exhausted. I’m totally burnt out. And I just look forward to the day that, one, I can afford, and two, there are people that I can hire to just relieve some of my own personal workload.”

[Sign up for Alaska Public Media’s daily newsletter to get our top stories delivered to your inbox.]

While some businesses, like Wild Scoops, see their highest sales in summer, others, like Blanchett’s, have their busy seasons during back-to-school and winter holiday shopping. With no clear end to the current labor shortage, Blanchett said she could find herself in a tough spot if she’s not able to hire in the next few months.

“I might end up asking my older nieces like, ‘Hey, can you come in on a Saturday and just wrap gifts, or empty fitting rooms?’” she said. “But who knows? They may have already been snatched up by then!”

At Title Wave Books in Spenard, owner Angela Libal decided to start hiring again back in April. Her staff is about a third smaller than it was pre-pandemic, which means things can get overwhelming on busy days. She said hiring this spring and summer has been frustratingly different than in years past.

“We would maybe have 40, 50, 60 applicants. And then when we’d go to set up interviews, we’d have 10 or 12 people, but maybe only two would show up,” she said. “Trying to figure out, why are people booking an interview when they are not going to show up?”

Angela Libal, owner and manager of Title Wave Books in Anchorage, on Aug. 30, 2021. (Jeff Chen/Alaska Public Media)

Libal guessed that because everyone’s hiring, workers can be choosy about where they go.

Dawn Walsh, co-owner of ShuzyQ shoes in South Anchorage can relate. She’s been trying since March to bring on new hires. Her staff of 10 has dropped to three and she said old recruitment methods like word of mouth don’t seem to be enough anymore.

“Before, the issue was finding someone who really fit in and that had experience and that would work with our team well,” she said. “But now it’s that we’re not getting any applicants. At all.”

Walsh said they raised wages and gave the store manager a bonus this year — a common market response in a labor shortage, according to labor economist Weller.

“If we need to, we will pay more,” said Walsh. “We’re just nervous about losing anybody right now.”

She said, at first, she thought she might be competing with unemployment benefits, and that’s why she wasn’t getting a response. Now, she said, she thinks the pandemic has caused people to adjust their priorities.

“I just heard from an employee that’s going to college and she just said she’s not working weekends anymore,” said Walsh “And that’s good. It’s good if people want to make those lifestyle choices. It’s just not very good for us in retail.”

Brown, at Wild Scoops, said it’s been a hard 18 months for everyone, not just in retail. The list is long.

“The restaurant workers, the nurses, the doctors, the teachers, the single parents, the school-aged parents, school-aged kids, high schoolers… There’s so few people in groups who actually won out this last year and a half,” she said. “Everybody’s feeling the burnout.”

Anchorage business owners fear worker burnout as hiring struggles persist &

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