Cash bonuses and free lunches: No end in sight to labor shortage
Ashley Bulmer owns Big Apple Bagels in Forest Lake, Minn. Her shop is closed several hours each day because she can’t find enough workers to help her. “It's just unreal," Bulmer said.

Ashley Bulmer is spending a lot less time on marketing and otherwise growing her business than she would like. 

At Big Apple Bagels, the business she owns in Forest Lake, she’s working the line with her relatively low-wage employees trying to fill a wholesale order. And the shop is closed several hours each day because Bulmer can’t find enough workers to help her.

“It's just unreal. I thought we were past this to be perfectly honest,” Bulmer said. “I never thought that I would experience such a shortage of staff. And my husband, who has been in restaurants since he was 16 — we're almost 40 now, and this is the first time in his lifetime that he's ever seen a labor shortage like this.”

Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development Commissioner Steve Grove said many factors are contributing to the worker shortage, including challenges in finding transportation and child care. And as the population ages, many people are retiring. Minnesota’s economic potential is being held back because of the labor shortage, Grove said.

As employers realize they have to enhance their offerings to retain workers and attract new people, employee incentives are becoming more common, Grove said.

“We're seeing just a huge influx in creative solutions across a whole host of companies, whether it's catered lunches or signing bonuses or child care slots, to try to help give workers that pathway to come and work at their firms.”

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