Next to the Black Friday ads are the “NOW HIRING” signs: retailers across Maine are struggling to hire seasonal help, and they’re still advertising jobs heading into the busy holiday shopping weekend.
“We’re all talking about the crunch, trying to find employees,” said Darci Wheeler, a manager at Wilbur’s of Maine in Freeport. The chocolate retail and production shop has been advertising for holiday help since May, and still has several open positions.
The trend applies to small businesses and big box stores alike. Even retail giant L.L. Bean has been having a hard time filling jobs.
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“It’s been a bit of a nail biter,” said L.L. Bean spokesperson, Carolyn Beem. She said typically, the company is done filling seasonal jobs by October, but they had to hire into November this year.
“It leaves less time for training,” she said.
The labor shortage hit Maine’s hospitality industry hard last summer. Some inns had to close early, and restaurants closed a few days a week, due to lack of staff.
One reason for the shortage could be Maine’s tight job market, with the unemployment rate at about four percent.
“It means the economy is moving along, and retailers are willing to add those seasonal jobs,” said Retail Association of Maine Executive Director Curtis Picard.