Small businesses struggle with worker shortages & higher labor costs

“I don't have the manpower"
Posted at 5:56 PM, Feb 08, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-08 18:03:37-05

BUFFALO, NY (WKBW) — Small businesses are being hit very hard by worker shortages, higher labor costs and inflation.

Hiring sign at Buffalo restaurant.

A survey by the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) says U.S. small business confidence has dipped to an 11-month low, down 1.8 points to the lowest levels since February of last year.

11-percent of small businesses surveyed say labor costs are too high and 23-percent say it's hard to find qualified workers.

Hair stylist Jackie Macalsuo.

“It was tough for me to start my business back up again after nine years. I felt like I needed to let it go unfortunately,” explained Jackie Macalsuo, Ciao Bella Hair Studio.

The pandemic forced hair stylist Jackie Macalsuo to close her own hair salon business in the Town of Tonawanda.

Like many small businesses who tried to emerge after the height of the pandemic, they are facing a major labor shortage and rising prices for materials.

Ciao Bella Hair Studio in Kenmore.

“It was extremely hard to find workers ‘cause everyone seems to be fine with not working,” remarked Macalsuo. “So we also had to then raise our prices for our clients to be able to make up for our income coming in to also pay out for the rent."

Macalsuo says that's when she made the tough decision to fold her business and rent at chair at Ciao Bella Hair Studio in Kenmore to serve her clients.

Blocks away in north Buffalo a restaurant owner is also struggling with a lack of workers and higher labor and food costs.

Lisa Riniolo runs The Garage Bar and Restaurant on Hertel Avenue.

“I’m still not open fully since the beginning of the pandemic. I only do one day of lunch during the week,” remarked Lisa Riniolo.

Riniolo runs The Garage Bar and Restaurant on Hertel Avenue. She says she has not been able to reopen six straight days a week because staffing is her number one roadblock.

“I don't have the manpower,” Riniolo declared.

The restaurant owner says workers are also demanding much higher rates that she simply can not afford.

restaraunt kitchen .jpg
Inside kitchen of The Garage Bar and Restaurant on Hertel Avenue.

“People are coming in with unrealistic numbers that they want. A dishwasher — $20 an hour — I can't afford it. If I have to pay a dishwasher $20 an hour, I might as well close the doors,” replied Riniolo.

“So it trickles down — it just trickles down to everyone,” responded Macalsuo.

Both the hair stylist and restaurant owner tell me mask mandates, issued by both the state and Erie County, have also complicated their workplaces.

Hair client adjusts mask.

“We have some that come in and do not want to wear them, then we have a few of them who do want to wear them,” explained Macalsuo.

“People are very defiant right now. I think that hurts business. I think people say, ‘you know what — I’m just going to stay home. I’m just not going out tonight. I don't want to deal with all of that’”, Riniolo described.

They say they're hoping the mask mandates will be dropped soon to end confusion and divisiveness for clients and return to normalcy.