Service industry veteran says higher wages would bring workers back

Updated: May. 10, 2021 at 11:26 PM CDT
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LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - In February of 2020, there were 165,000 people able to work in Lubbock, according to the Chamber of Commerce.

At that time, 5,000 were unemployed. Now, unemployment has doubled.

Some business owners have blamed additional unemployment benefits for the worker shortage.

One Lubbock woman, Jessica Guajardo, says benefits aren’t the issue.

“There are people that are willing to work, and they want to work, but they want to make it worth it. If it’s not worth working at a job where you’re making barely thirty hours a week for like $9 an hour, you’d rather just stay home and either get an education or find another job,” Guajardo said.

Guajardo is a single mother of six.

She’s worked in management positions in the service industry for 18 years, but said it was time to make a change.

“There’s jobs where you’re having to work like 50 plus hours a week and it’s just, it’s still not enough to pay your bills, and to be able to take care of your family. It’s really, really hard to do that,” Guajardo said.

She’s not on unemployment benefits, but thinks some people have the wrong idea about those benefitting from the funds.

She’s currently living off her stimulus money and cleans houses when she can.

She started taking classes full-time in January to get her bachelor’s in Business Administration.

“I mean I have six kids, so I would love to be able to have a career where I can, you know, work eight to five and come home and take care of my kids and make more money,” Guajardo said.

Kyle Jacobson, the vice president of Government Relations at the Chamber of Commerce, says the U. S. Chamber of Commerce determined that about one quarter of unemployment insurance recipients are earning more from that than they were before the pandemic.

Jacobson says he’s heard some businesses are trying to offer higher wages, but many are still recovering from more than a year of struggling themselves.

“Once businesses are back on their feet and kind of have their feet under them in terms of revenue again, I think that they will offer more competitive wages moving forward,” Jacobson said.

Jacobson says he thinks there’s some merit to the conversation about raising the minimum wage, but in a region with a lower cost of living, like ours, $15 an hour would be difficult to achieve, especially quickly.

He says people switching industries and finding quality childcare are also contributing to unemployment numbers.

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