Nationwide labor shortage now impacting New Jersey assisted living industry

Many New Jersey businesses are struggling to find employees who want to work. And now a new industry in the Garden State is having a hard time filling positions – assisted living facilities.
Chelsea Senior Living has 15 facilities throughout New Jersey helping those who want to live independently or those in need of assisted care. Occupancy is high right now but Director Roger Bernier has an issue – it’s becoming difficult to fill jobs.
“Business is coming back. The employees aren’t coming back” Bernier says.
He says that when the pandemic first hit, he lost 20% of his employees.
“Quite frankly we aren't getting applications anymore. People aren't coming in to fill the roles. It's the worst labor market we've ever seen,” Bernier says.
There are positions available right now. Listings include certified medication aid, cooks and nurses. There are jobs for concierge services and activities assistant. Bernier says that he needs people now because the current employees are overworked.
Employers like Bernier are trying to lure in prospective employees with higher wages. Some salaries are rising 40%. Bernier is offering $500 signing bonuses. But he said that even this isn’t working.
Bernier partially blames stimulus checks of up to $300, along with unemployment benefits that are enticing people to stay home.
But economists say that this is only partly in play.
“You have a Baby Boom generation working remotely or not at all. They’ve discovered, ‘Hey, I’m not going to go back to work. I can retire and start collecting Social Security,’” says Rutgers Professor James Hughes.
Hughes says that some people don’t have the skill set to fill job fields with openings. Or there are people who would now need a car to get to a new job. He says that this may impact how some businesses operate.
"You may not be able to open the restaurant four days, you may have to limit evening hours,” Hughes says.
Hughes and Bernier say that they hope that things will change in September. When kids go back to school, parents may go back to work.
“I’m crossing my fingers. That’ll be what we need,” Bernier says.
In spite of the labor shortage, the next Gross Domestic Product report is expected to look positive. Hughes says it should show pre-pandemic earnings. That report comes out on Thursday.