Killeen businesses struggle as jobless claims rise for the first time in a month

KWTX News 10 at 10P
Published: Feb. 20, 2022 at 5:48 PM CST
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KILLEEN, Texas (KWTX) - Despite a growing surge of Central Texans ready to go back to work, the Labor Department has reported jobless claims rose from 23,000 to 248,000 in the last week.

For small businesses like Bite the Bagel Café and Village Pizza in Killeen, it’s been quite the challenge with staffing over the last few months.

“We’ll call somebody back for an interview and a lot of times, they don’t show up for it,” said Owner Jim Januszka.

“We’ve had some folks that we’ve actually hired and worked about 3-4 hours, then never showed back up. So, it’s very discouraging. People say they need jobs and we have them available, but we just can’t seem to get them in the door.”

Thankfully, Januszka says his business has hired just enough to keep things moving in the meantime. Although, employees like Luis Vargas say he’s had a few instances where he was running the shop by himself.

“To tell you the truth, I’m so used to this,” he said.

“You know, it’s really not as hard anymore. Like I said, I was a one-man team for a while. Now, that we have just a few people that’ve come on and stay at least, it’s helped us out a lot.”

Some economists like local Professor Rob Tennant from Texas A&M Central Texas say the reason for the spike could be the lingering effects of the Omicron wave and its fear on the unemployed, but he believes this is only a temporary blow to the economy.

“For job participation rates, we’re almost back to where we were before the pandemic, which is a good indicator,” he said.

“So, there’s a lot of really good things happening in the data, but obviously this number of more than 200,000 claims nation-wide is big, but it may represent one last gasp of Omicron.”

While Tennant and other economists say things will return to normal soon, Januszka says he remains prepared for the worst.

“So, my hope is that we’ll be able to bring on more folks that we do need right now and be able to keep them,” he said.

“It’s hard out there right now.”

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