CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Teen workers are in demand this summer as businesses look to hire and return to normal operations.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the share of teenagers ages 16 to 19 working is above pre-pandemic levels and the highest it's been since 2008.
Liz Swanson, the owner of Royal Fluff Cotton Candy, started her gourmet, hand-spun, organic, dye-free, and vegan-friendly cotton candy business amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
She began serving up the sweet treats at small outdoor gatherings and has gradually moved to bigger events as COVID-19 restrictions are eased.
"Everything from weddings now and every kind of party you can think of, there is a demand,” Swanson said. “And we do try to fill as many as we can, but unfortunately, staffing has been a big issue."
Swanson posted on the business's Facebook page that it is hiring cotton candy artists. It’s a position she said a high school or college-aged student who can drive could easily fill, but she’s had a tough time finding job applicants for the open positions.
"Finding people that want to work is really tough, and that's been my biggest small business challenge,” Swanson said.
Royal Fluff is offering flexible hours and the opportunity for free cotton candy, hoping to find employees to join the team and continue growing the business.
"Cotton candy brings so much joy that it's just a fun job," Swanson added.
WCNC Charlotte is always asking "where's the money?" If you need help, reach out to the Defenders team by emailing email@example.com.
State lawmakers discuss bill to end added federal unemployment assistance
As more businesses continue to add jobs and try to hire employees, unemployment numbers across the state of North Carolina continue to drop.
According to the latest state data, the April statewide unemployment rate dipped to 5%. It’s the lowest the unemployment rate has been since March 2020 but still higher than two years ago when the unemployment rate hovered around 4%.
North Carolina lawmakers are discussing a bill called the “Putting North Carolina Back to Work Act.” It seeks to withdraw the state from the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program, which provides an additional $300 per week to unemployment insurance claimants through Sept. 6.
"Right now, we have a system in place that is essentially incentivizing not working,” said House Speaker Rep. Tim Moore, R- Cleveland County. “That is not right."
Moore said businesses are struggling to fill open positions.
"A lot of these businesses are not able to find folks to work, and if someone can receive more by not going to work, why would they go to work?" Moore said.
House Democratic Leader Rep. Robert T. Reives, II, D-Chatham County, disagreed with Moore, saying he believes the extra money is not the reason for a low turnout of job applicants.
“This problem ends September sixth,” Reives said. “If this is the issue, then on September seventh, there will be a glorious rain of people falling into work and the world's going to end, but my suspicion is that's not what's going to happen."
Reives added context that the pandemic may have led to lifestyle, education, or career changes, shifting people's wants and needs in a job.
"I honest to goodness in my heart just don't know people who don't want to work,” Reives said.