Jobs, jobs, jobs: Alachua County openings top 10,000

Downtown Gainesville, Florida, at twilight
Downtown Gainesville, Florida, at twilight
Sean Pavone via Shutterstock

Alachua County is starting the month of June with 10,792 job openings, according to data tracked by Greater Gainesville Chamber.

“It’s one of those unprecedented times,” Chamber President Eric Godet Sr. said in a phone interview. “As we open up our community and wind down the negative impacts on our community from the pandemic, we’re seeing greater demand for employees.”

Godet said the number of job openings represents a sharp increase from the start of May, when employers were looking to fill about 5,700 positions.

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“It basically doubled in a month,” Godet said. “I don’t think there’s a place you can pass without seeing a job opening or ‘employees wanted’ sign.”

Godet said some restaurants in town have been unable to open their dining rooms and hotels have had difficulty reaching 100 percent capacity due to staffing issues.

“Hospitality probably saw the greatest hit in our community,” Godet said.

Gainesville’s labor market matches national trends. In May the U.S. Labor Department reported a record-breaking number of job openings, more than 8 million, even though the most recent data only reflected numbers through March.

Now, with more than 16 million Americans receiving unemployment aid, two dozen states have moved to end early an extra $300 in federal unemployment benefits. Last week Florida joined the group when officials announced the state would opt out on June 26.

Eric Godet Sr.

“We had these wonderful benefits to help those who were unemployed, but now that we’re seeing things open up, those federal benefits aren’t as essential, because we have jobs opening up in our community,” Godet said, adding that he expects the June 26 phase-out to make a difference in the local job market.

For now, businesses report few hiring prospects. Zach Salzer, general manager of 4 Rivers Smokehouse, said he’s looking to hire 10 to 20 team members in preparation for the busy football season, but he received only two applications from Monday to Friday last week.

“Typically, pre-COVID, we would see 10 to 15 applicants in that same time frame,” he said. “It’s a very slow applicant flow.”

Salzer said staying ahead of employee departures, offering good benefits and always accepting applications have helped his location maintain 100 percent staffing levels, but other 4 Rivers locations have struggled. He said some have pulled staff from other locations and one had an HR manager busing tables.

“We have an amazing culture here, so the team has really come together to cover positions if needed,” he said. “One of the things working in a restaurant has taught me is to be extremely resourceful.”

The majority of the available jobs in Alachua County are in Gainesville, but Godet said other cities have ample openings as well. The largest numbers are as follows:

Gainesville: 9,818

Alachua: 514

Newberry: 187

Hawthorne: 50

Waldo: 26

Archer: 24

Micanopy: 22

Godet said the Chamber has started posting positions to its website and experienced good results.

“We’re trying to be solutions oriented and match up as many individuals with the jobs that are available,” he said, noting the many openings are a good sign. “It’s a great problem. It means our community is coming back.”

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