Sign of the times in West Michigan: ‘Now hiring’


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Michigan’s unemployment rate has dipped to the lowest it has been since 2001, and some employers say they’re feeling the pinch when it comes to filling open positions.

The state released statistics in July that put Michigan’s unemployment rate at 4.6 percent — less than half of what it was in 2011.

Frank Vitale said he’s struggling to fill more than a dozen positions at the 28th Street pizza restaurant he owns.

“Our number one priority is hiring,” he told 24 Hour News 8. “We’re offering premium salaries or hourly rates just to get people in the door.”

Vitale says the scramble to find people to work traditionally off hours — nights and weekends — is an even bigger challenge in the current climate. He says he’s willing to pay for the right person willing to work.

“If it takes us to pay two, three dollars more an hour, that won’t be an issue because it pays for itself in the long run,” Vitale said.

It’s a similar story for the 34 Schostak Applebee’s restaurants in West Michigan. Company officials say they’re seeking more than 100 people to fill positions from management on down.

In some 20 years of service, Angela Dawson, the general manager of the Applebee’s on Alpine Avenue, says she’s never seen hiring become such a big problem.

“There’s just a lot of opportunities right now for jobs out there,” Dawson said. “You drive downtown or even down Alpine and a lot of people have ‘now hiring’ on their marquee. Open interviews on site.”

Dawson says she has offered incentives to staff members who bring in successful recruits. Many Applebee’s stores have signs outside and officials are using internet and social media resources to help find staff.

Officials at the Taco Bell restaurant in Jenison cut operating hours back because of staffing difficulties, shutting the doors at midnight as opposed to the traditional early morning closing time.

Applebee’s and Frankie V’s both say the shortage comes at a time when business is increasing. They say lack of staff to handle the demand is a significant stumbling block to growing a business.

Applebee’s is accepting applications online. Frankie V’s takes paper applications at the restaurant.

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