Problem with hiring in restaurant industry due to higher paying jobs elsewhere

Restaurants and other service-sector businesses aren’t having trouble hiring employees because people don’t want to work, but because they’ve found better-paying jobs, state Rep. Judd Strom said. , R-Copan, in a recent Facebook post.

“When you see the Help Wanted signs, consider the idea that they’re not there because people don’t want to work anymore,” he wrote. “They’re there because the people who left those jobs got better jobs.”

In fact, he thinks future employees are finding those “best jobs” in Oklahoma’s relatively new medical marijuana industry.

Medical marijuana jobs pay two or three times the amount of typical restaurant salaries. Employees also benefit from a “much less stressful work environment and a much friendlier customer base,” Strom said.

The National Restaurant Association reports more than 7,000 restaurants and drinking places in Oklahoma. According to ZipRecruiter, those jobs pay an average wage of $11.18 an hour, he said.

Compare that to more than 8,000 marijuana grow operations in the state with an average wage of $17 an hour and more than 2,000 medical marijuana dispensaries with an hourly wage of $23.69, Strom said. .

Strom said his constituents constantly urge him to end unemployment benefits because they believe it stops people from wanting to work.

“No unemployed people quit their jobs. They were working and then were laid off or fired,” he said. “We’re back to pre-Covid unemployment numbers. In fact, more people are working in Oklahoma now than before Covid.”

Strom said her Facebook post was not an endorsement of the state’s medical marijuana industry, but simply an observation of how it has changed Oklahoma’s economic landscape.

“Consider this: If every marijuana business in the state only paid the owner and one employee… That’s 20,000 high-paying jobs that didn’t exist two years ago,” he wrote. “If each operation only paid the owner and two employees… That’s 30,000 jobs. I know of several local grow operations that employ over 40 people.”

Strom said the service industry will likely need to raise wages to be competitive in hiring.

“Go back up and look at the salaries and think about scrubbing pots and pans or filling ketchup bottles at midnight on a Saturday night against a 9-5 [job] handing out gummy bears in a clean, casual shop with great music. They won’t come back,” he said.

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Cecil N. Messick