Try to have lunch at a local major chain restaurant on a weekday and the message on the door reiterates what appears to be a growing problem in our area and well beyond — many people are not working.

The sign on the door makes clear that the restaurant currently doesn’t have enough staff to serve the lunch crowd.

Local eateries and retailers alike are posting signs with increased rates of pay as well as benefits, but the signs point to a greater problem.

Texas currently sits at a 6.9 % unemployment rate, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That is 39th out of 50 states.

With one of the higher unemployment rates in the country, COVID restrictions lightened or lifted completely, and an evident need for workers, somewhere there is most certainly a disconnect.

Add to that the latest results from the U.S. Census Bureau, Texas is third on the list of population growth nationwide at 15.91%. One of the fastest growing states in the country with relatively high unemployment has businesses unable to open for lack of workers.

What is the cause?

Most certainly a worldwide pandemic hit hard the service industry and forced many workers to stay home. Childcare facilities and schools closed. Employees could not work without sufficient options to care for their kids.

Arguably, however, the worst is currently behind us. Hopefully it remains this way.

Schools are functioning like normal, mask mandates were dropped in classrooms weeks or more ago. Child care facilities are back. Most retailers and eateries are fully open and yet many are understaffed.

Some business owners say that they cannot afford to pay workers what they have begun to receive in unemployment wages. Federal aid via the American Rescue Plan has provided an extra $300 a week beyond state benefits.

Add to the unemployment monies stimulus checks and the dilemma only seems to grow. It pays better to stay at home.

Currently as many as 16 states are planning to opt out of the extra federal aid before the extended deadline expires in September.

People needed help to make their way through extraordinary circumstances and unemployment checks were part of literal survival, but has it now backfired on the local economy?

A little more than 30 percent of Palo Pinto County residents have received at least one dose of the vaccine, compared to 37 percent in Parker, so coronavirus may still be the lingering holdup, but there is no doubt that the jobs are out there.

For those looking to get back into the workforce, there is plenty of support. One such resource is Workforce Solutions for North Central Texas, which covers Palo Pinto and Parker counties: 817-695-9184. The Weatherford Workforce Center is a local branch of the Workforce Solutions of North Central Texas. Contact them at weatherfordworkforce@dfwjobs.com or 817-594-0049.

Weatherford Democrat

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