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7/9/2017 11:32:00 AM
Not enough workers for South Bend-area restaurants because of labor shortfall
Fast food restaurants have been particularly hard hit by a local labor shortage. Some of them have had to operate short-staffed or change hours to compensate for lack of staff. Staff photo by Michael Caterina
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Fast food restaurants have been particularly hard hit by a local labor shortage. Some of them have had to operate short-staffed or change hours to compensate for lack of staff. Staff photo by Michael Caterina

Jake Brown, South Bend Tribune

When Vicki Farmwald convenes her staff at the Hacienda Mexican Restaurants corporate office for meetings, any number of subjects could be on the docket.

Current or upcoming limited time offers, special promotions, craft beer selections and so on. But over the last couple of years there’s been one topic that’s pervasive, even consuming: labor.

Farmwald, president and chief operating officer for the local Mexican restaurant chain, has spent countless hours trying to figure out how to solve a staffing shortfall.

“Every day, every week, every meeting we have,” Farmwald said recently. “It’s the top priority for everybody.”

Hacienda is far from alone. Restaurants in our area are feeling the pinch that comes along with, ironically, a robust economy.

We’re eight years removed from the Great Recession, now considered the worst economic downturn this side of the Great Depression. By one of the simplest indicators, unemployment rate, the economy is now humming along.

Statistics released in June by the Bureau of Labor Statistics listed the national unemployment rate at 4.3 percent. Indiana is lower by a full percentage point, checking in at 3.2 percent.

Locally, it’s even better.

South Bend-Mishawaka had an unemployment rate of 3 percent in May, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Elkhart-Goshen, well known as one of the hardest hit areas during the Great Recession, had an unemployment rate of 2.1 percent in May.

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