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Michiana worker shortage could mean growing economy

MISHAWKA, Ind. --It's a site many see across the Michiana area: the blazing "now hiring" banners. 

It's a worker shortage problem, one that impacts a lot of businesses. 

"We finally got this place open," says George Castillo. 

Tuesday was opening day for Castillo's second Salsa's Mexican Grill location. 

The Granger restaurant still doesn't have the Salsa's sign up and ready to go, but there's still a "Now Hiring" banner flying across the entrance. 

"We put a lot of posts on Facebook and different platforms on social media. We have it up on websites saying that we're hiring," explains Castillo. 

His Grape Road location is fully staffed, but the new Granger location is only getting there. 

It's a problem that many businesses, especially restaurants, seem to be facing.

"There are signs everywhere around here that say 'now hiring, or 'we're hiring,'"says Castillo.

But is it really a problem?

"The area is growing. Everyone wants to come here for various reasons," says Adam Loehmer, the Operating Partner of the Mishawaka Panera location. "Some of it is for the great businesses that we have around here. Sales are growing and with that, we just need more people."

The question remains, where are the people going to come from?

Indiana's unemployment rate is one of the lowest in the country, at just 3.2%, which forces employers to look at other age groups to fill the open positions.

Castillo says he frequently receives applications from high school students. 

Teenage workers are trending across the country.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average unemployment rate for teens aged 16-19 years old, during the period of March 2017-March 2018, was 13.9%.

That's the lowest since 2001

Castillo has a teenage son himself, and believes teens want a sense of independence that comes with part-time work. 

But others, like Loehmer, say they prefer to go a different route.

"[Being] under 18 sometimes makes it difficult. In a fast-paced business, if someone works one minute over than allotted, you're looking at some serious fines," explains Loehmer. 

So, he looks on the other end of the age spectrum and turns to the older generation.

"We have found quite a few people who are retired who are coming to be delivery drivers," he says. "They love it, it's a stress free job, and they can work for only a few hours a day and get a little money to supplement their retirement." 

That's also becoming a reality for many retirees. 

According to BLS, the amount of employees who are 65 years old or older grew to 18.8% in 2016. It was 12.8% in 2000. 

"We have the hardest working Americans. It's tough for them to slow down, so this gives them something to do," says Loehmer. 


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