OSAGE BEACH - It's hard to miss the "help wanted" and "now hiring" signs that litter Osage Beach Parkway.

Vista Grande has had their sign up for over a decade.

"We've been in business 37 years and this is the worst it's ever been," owner John Schell said. "We'll continue the best we can do until we can't do it anymore."

The issues in the lake area reflect a problem across the state and around the country. Just Jeff's in Columbia, a candidate for the chamber's 2020 Small Business of the Year, also faced significant staff shortages.

"I've already had to close several days in the last month," Owner Jeff Spencer said. "The whole industry struggling just like I am."

Restaurants are not the only industry to be hit hard.

"There's not a person that that I come in contact with that as a business owner or manager or something like that, who isn't in a terrible pinch right now for help," Spencer said.

In March 2021, there were nearly 32,000 fewer workers in the Missouri labor force than in March 2020, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics

"Now that we're reopening again, you've got the demand for jobs," University of Missouri Business and Financial Journalism Professor Martha Steffens said. "You still have a fair amount of reluctance on the behalf of people to go to work."

Steffens believes that hesitancy among many part-time and customer-facing jobs is keeping demand high and supply low.

"I think we just haven't seen enough time pass," she said. "There's still a strong percentage of healthy young adults who aren't really that keen having these front facing public jobs."

Abby Eidson, a bartender at Vista Grande, took on more shifts to make up for their shortage.

"It's very hard to get staffed because a lot of people either don't want to work or live off the government," Eidson said. "Me and the other bartender basically work doubles almost every day of the week."

The situation has left many business owners like Schell facing some tough decisions.

"We're thinking about maybe cutting hours for business hours, and possibly going back to closing Tuesdays or another day," Schell said. "There's just no workforce."

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