• Will hiring improve in Newport County in 2022? Concern remains.

    Will hiring improve in Newport County in 2022? Concern remains.

    Savana Dunning | The Newport Daily News
    The original article can be read here




    Six Months.

    That’s how long it took for Marco Polselli to find enough staff to open his new sandwich shop in downtown Newport. 

    “It was incredibly hard,” Polselli said. “After getting all the certificates and all the paperwork from the city done, there was this period of time where I was able to open but I couldn’t because I didn’t have employees.”

    Polselli, who also owns the original Marco’s Subs and Pickles-A-Deli in Portsmouth and Middletown respectively, had announced the plans and began hiring for the new Marco's Cafe on Spring Street in June 2021 with hopes to open sometime in July. As weeks passed with applications few and far in between, he decided to wait until Newport’s off-season, as he didn’t want a new, understaffed cafe to face record-breaking Newport tourism crowds.

    “You want to put a good face on the business when it starts,” Polselli said. “We don’t want to disappoint people by having them wait too long or have subpar product because of being short-staffed.”

    Marco Poleselli owns Marco's Cafe in Newport.

    Newport County's diminishing workforce

    While Polselli and the rest of the restaurant and hospitality industry have become the faces of the hiring crisis, they are not alone. From March 2020 to August 2021, Newport County’s available workforce, which includes those who are employed and unemployed, dropped by 5%, according to data from the Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training. 

    Although numbers improved little by little as the year drew to a close, there was still a large gap between available jobs and available workers in Newport County by the end of September. Erin Donovan Boyle, executive director of the Greater Newport County Chamber of Commerce, said not much has changed since September, either.
    Jose Miller is an employee at Marco's Cafe in Newport.

    “At every level of employment, it is difficult to attract the workers that we need, from physicians to entry level dishwashing positions,” Donovan Boyle said.

    In a conversation with the Newport Daily News in September about the hiring crisis, Donovan Boyle pointed to the housing market and aging population of Newport County as two key factors driving the diminishing workforce. Those are still her top concerns, she said, but now she also said people are reevaluating how unemployment is understood and calculated at the same time, so the definitive reason behind the fall in available workers is still unknown.

    Where are the employees?:Newport County's missing workforce isn't on unemployment, they're leaving the job market

    “I do think part of it is people who have left the market or their industry sector and found alternative options, but it’s also retirees,” Donovan Boyle said. “A significant number of Baby Boomers have chosen to retire, some earlier than maybe we expected, and that probably has to do with burnout, as well as ceasing the opportunity and health concerns.”

    While Donovan Boyle believes the bulk of the labor force exits are retirees, the chamber has been working to help businesses draw in those who are not retired. With more job postings than available candidates, employees have more power in choosing between potential employers, so Donovan Boyle said the chamber has been working alongside businesses to create more incentives for future employees, whether that be added benefits or pay increases.

    Erin Donovan-Boyle, executive director of the Greater Newport Chamber of Commerce.

    “It depends on where you’re looking, there are certainly restaurants who have not had a hard time hiring or retaining their current staff, but there are others that do,” Donovan Boyle said. “It’s still extremely difficult (to find employees), if not more exacerbated in some specific fields, like the healthcare industry.”

    22 job openings per unemployed nurse

    There were 5,730 Rhode Island job postings for healthcare practitioners during the third quarter of 2021, which meant there were 22 listings per unemployed Rhode Islander who claimed healthcare practitioner as their field of work. Of those postings, 42% were hiring registered nurses to relieve the state’s overburdened healthcare system.

    “The COVID-19 situation has certainly changed the healthcare recruiting climate considerably,” said Ara Millette, talent acquisition manager for Lifespan Health System. “Healthcare, like many other industries across the nation, has been experiencing what people refer to as ‘The Great Resignation’ where a high volume of employees are taking opportunities elsewhere.”

    Lifespan oversees several healthcare facilities throughout Rhode Island, including Newport Hospital. Millette said the healthcare industry's unique position at the frontlines of the pandemic has led to increased burnout and turnover among nursing staff who quit to look for job opportunities elsewhere.

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