Holiday towns struggle to hire before the 4th of July weekend

Lauren Belvin and her husband run Belvin Built, a design and construction company based in Point Harbor, North Carolina, a small coastal town across the Outer Banks Bridge.

The company takes care of everything from restoring floods after hurricanes to designing new homes. Belvin pays its workers between $ 500 and $ 1,000 a day, depending on the project. But this summer, the only consistent employees they could find were two teenage boys they discovered electrically washing their neighbor’s house.

The business challenge faces many small businesses in seaside towns. From the Outer Banks to the Hamptons, a combination of factors have left “Help Wanted” signs on store doors along the coast.

Insider’s Ayelet Sheffey reported that the national labor shortage could be due to a mix of four factors: unemployment benefits, health issues related to COVID-19, family responsibilities and low wages.

Many seasonal international workers that summer cities depend on were unable to travel to the United States due to J-1 visa restrictions. Holiday destinations are then faced with a sixth challenge: the affordable housing crisis. All of these factors collide during the busiest travel weekend of the year, as tourists flock to the beach to celebrate Independence Day.

“Before the pandemic, it was bad,” said Tom Ruhle, director of the East Hampton Office of Housing and Community Development. “Now this is dismal.”

Ruhle told Insider that while the Hamptons’ housing market is booming, the few affordable housing available before the pandemic has almost entirely disappeared.

The New York Times reported that data collected by Douglas Elliman, a real estate company, showed that the number of homes available in the Hamptons fell at the fastest rate in more than a decade as sales and prices skyrocketed.

“It pushes everyone to live further and further away,” Belvin told Insider. “And then the rise in gas prices associated with unemployment makes it almost impossible to find skilled labor at this time.”

Some year-round residents in the Outer Banks have been forced to vacate rentals as landlords capitalize on the real estate market.

“I had a friend who lived in Kill Devil Hills for 20 years. His owner gave him 30 days to move in April because he was putting the house on the market,” Belvin told Insider. “Now she lives in our warehouse. ”

Many seaside restaurants do not have the staff to stay open during normal hours, and must often remain closed one or two days a week. With a tourist season that lasts only three months a year, the closure reduces the income that seasonal businesses depend on to survive the winter.

Sandbars Raw Bar and Grill, a restaurant in Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina, closed on Friday. Owners Mark and Michelle Shafer posted a moving video on the company’s Facebook page, citing labor shortages as the main reason for the shutdown.

“There aren’t a lot of people looking for jobs and it’s become extremely difficult,” Mark Shafer said in the video.

Citarella, a popular gourmet market, is offering a hiring bonus of $ 2,500 at his Bridgehampton location with continuous employment.

Blue Moon Beach Grill, a restaurant in Nags Head, North Carolina.

A sign at Blue Moon Beach Grill, a restaurant in Nags Head, NC. (Photo courtesy of Lauren Belvin)

Lauren Belvin

Lynn Jones-Hoates, owner of the Healthy Environments Child Development Center in Kill Devil Hills, told Insider she has a waiting list of families wanting to enroll their children in daycare so they can go to work, but she doesn’t not enough staff to fully reopen.

“The question becomes what it’s going to look like all year round here,” Ruhle said. “Under the work-from-home scenario, if we get more of an economy all year round, we’re going to have more demand for workers all year round, and that’s going to exacerbate some of the problems we have. is that going to happen. ”

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