RICHMOND, Va. -- For over 19 years, Family Secrets Restaurant Owner, Reginald Littleton has served up fresh plates for Richmonders. However, the once lively restaurant now keeps its doors closed, sticking strictly to catering and take-out, just the latest casualty in a state and nationwide worker shortage.
"Most of the time we’ve got more and more people looking for jobs. Now we got more and more jobs looking for people," said Littleton.
The manager, owner and chef said if he had the workers, he'd open for dine-in now.
"I had 15 employees. I think I’m down to four," said Littleton.
On Wednesday, the Virginia Workforce Connection showed more than 544,000 jobs available in Virginia.
A Tuesday job order report shared with CBS 6 by the Virginia Employment Commission showed more than 1,400 waiter/waitress job openings and more than 4,200 combined food prep and serving openings.
"This is unbelievable. Everywhere you go you see a shortage of staffing, at the restaurants and grocery stores. Everywhere you go," Littleton said.
Adam Blandin, Assistant Professor of Economics at VCU, was co-authoring a real-time population survey gauging labor market estimates amid the pandemic. He said data showed many people who were working or looking for work before the pandemic, had now stopped.
"We recovered from the worst of the pandemic job losses very quickly. The only question is whether we're going to fully recover or whether we're going to get stuck at sort of this two-thirds recovery place for several years," said Blandin.
Blandin said recent results of his survey weren’t promising, with employment gains in March, but a stagnating April and May.
He said there could be several reasons for that like an uptick in inflation, workers expecting higher pay, health concerns and people finding other jobs.
Another possibility he said was the pandemic unemployment benefits people were receiving that are set to end in September.
"What would you do?" Littleton asked. "Somebody give you more money to stay at home than to come to work?"
Littleton said that he didn't like it but understood it. Adding that he paid his employees well.
“No body makes minimum wage at my business. Everybody makes above minimum wage — at least from $10 to $11 to start here,” said Littleton. “My waitresses start at 5 an hour plus tips.”
Littleton added that the longer his employees stayed, the more he paid.
“Every 90 days you can ask for an increase,” said Littleton.
As for Family Secrets Restaurant, he said they planned to reduce hours but had no intention of closing.
"Only the strong survive and we're staying strong," Littleton said.