PANAMA CITY — It has been about two years since COVID-19 first made native headlines and began tanking the worldwide financial system, and Kim Bodine says she is each assured and hopeful that 2022 will be a bright year for Bay County.
It will likely be a 12 months that may boast low unemployment charges and lots of new high-paying jobs, she mentioned.
“We’ve seen lots of people enter the workforce, (and) I feel that going into 2022, we’ll most likely nonetheless see a tightness within the labor drive … however big, big job alternatives for lots of people,” mentioned Bodine, government director of CareerSource Gulf Coast.
‘A lot to rejoice’:Bay County jobless rate continues to decline in wake of COVID-19
Whereas unemployment numbers for December is not going to be accessible for about one other week, previous stories state that Bay County boasted a 3.4% unemployment price in November. This not solely was 0.2% decrease than the statewide price for a similar time, it was 0.4% decrease than throughout the identical month in 2020. It additionally was a 0.2% dip from October.
CareerSource has said that the Panama Metropolis space had the third-fastest annual job progress price of all metropolitan areas in Florida throughout November, including about 3,200 non-agricultural jobs in only one month.
“As unhealthy as it could be with COVID-19 and the way in which that it impacts individuals and their well being, I do really feel like employers have finished rather a lot to be taught to navigate it and to create insurance policies that make their workforces as productive as they are often on this state of affairs,” Bodine mentioned. “I do not know that we’ll ever come fully out of COVID-19 (as a result of) I feel that we’ll proceed to see some disruptions … however I do imagine that employers have been modern.”
Nonetheless, many native companies nonetheless are grappling with staffing points ignited by the virus.
Amongst these is the Finest Western Plus Panama Metropolis Resort, which opened in March and has but to expertise a time when it had the best variety of staff, in keeping with Dharmang Shah, proprietor and supervisor of the ability.
Shah mentioned that regardless of all positions throughout the resort incomes a minimum of $14 an hour, it nonetheless looks as if individuals don’t wish to work. He blamed this on unrealistic wage expectations, sparked by previous unemployment advantages designed to fight excessive jobless charges in the course of the top of the pandemic.
Earlier within the pandemic, individuals who collected each full state unemployment — $275 per week — and full federal unemployment — $300 per week — made about the identical as somebody incomes $14 an hour earlier than taxes. Federal unemployment has since expired.
“It is simply been extraordinarily troublesome to get workers to stay round, even at high-paying hourly wages,” Shah mentioned. “They only do not are available in as a result of they (had been) getting paid by the federal government (about the identical quantity) to not do something.”
Trying forward, Shah mentioned he hopes that as society continues to creep again towards normalcy and the financial system ranges out, extra individuals finally will be prepared to work these needed jobs once more which have fewer tasks and decrease wages.
Nonetheless, that might take one other 12 months.
“I am pondering possibly finish of the third quarter (or) fourth quarter (of this 12 months),” Shah mentioned of when he thinks this shift shall be noticeable. “I feel 2022 nonetheless goes to be like a 75% replication of 2021, (which) was like a 95% to 98% replication of 2020. Now, we’re beginning to taper down.”
In contrast to the native Finest Western, the St. Andrews Slice Home has not skilled any extreme staffing points sparked by the COVID-19 pandemic, mentioned Phillip Mercer, a managing member of the enterprise situated in Panama Metropolis.
As a substitute, the favored pizza store has thrived and now’s set to unveil two new places this 12 months — one in Lynn Haven, which can open someday this summer time, and a second location in Panama Metropolis, which can open in a couple of month.
Mercer credited the enterprise’ success to a piece atmosphere designed to not solely make each worker really feel like a vital member of a staff, but additionally a part of a household. On high of that, his employees is also paid a aggressive price, with most servers making a minimum of $10 an hour plus suggestions.
“We deal with everybody like household … and we pay a bit higher than most locations,” Mercer mentioned. “There is a distinction between bosses and leaders. A boss sits there and controls issues like they’re at a console and people persons are needed in sure jobs, however in a restaurant … as an alternative of a boss, you want leaders.”
In the meantime, Becca Hardin, president of the Bay County Financial Improvement Alliance, mentioned her group hopes to deliver a minimum of two extra companies to the world this 12 months.
Whereas she couldn’t launch their names, Hardin mentioned the businesses collectively would create about 240 well-paying, extremely sought-after jobs.
“They’re actually good corporations (that) shall be employers of selection,” she mentioned. “We’re assured that 2022 goes to be a way more lively 12 months. Regardless of the most recent pressure of (COVID-19), persons are touring once more (and) anxious to place (the virus) behind us and implement progress.”