Texas restaurants short 125,000 workers as slow pace of hiring continues

Industry experts say slower than hoped for job growth could continue for a while, especially for the restaurant business.

The Labor Department says hiring fell short of expectations in September, when employers hired 194,000 workers.

It's been seven months since Texas lifted restaurant capacity restrictions, but some eateries can't open up to 100 percent due to ongoing staffing shortages.

"It definitely is the number one challenge happening right now in the restaurant industry," said Joe Monastero, Chief Operations Officer, Texas Restaurant Association.

He says some 100,000-125,000 restaurant workers still haven't returned to the food industry. Raising Canes has been forced to get creative, temporarily moving some 200 of its Dallas office staff to work at its fast-food restaurants.

But some restaurant workers are not coming back. 

Lisa Sullivan is one of them. The one-time Dallas server went back to college instead.

"I am now back at work, but I am working in the field that I went to school for," Sullivan said

Despite the lower than expected hiring, the unemployment rate fell sharply to 4.8% from 5.2%. 

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"What I'm optimistic about is that employers are indeed offering lots of jobs. They're out there trying to hire people," said John Rosen, economics professor, University of New Haven. "It is concerning that people aren't accepting those jobs in numbers."

Julie Bauke's firm helps people make career transitions and believes there are several factors at play.

"You've got people who are still afraid of COVID-19, still afraid of the delta variant," she said. "We had a higher than what we expected retirement rate of Boomers from the market."

And those who are changing careers, like Sullivan.

"Obviously, the pandemic is not a good thing, but as far as my life it helped me make some very positive changes that I would not have made," she said.

Sullivan said even if she hadn't gone back to school to finish her degree, she doesn't think she'd go back to waiting tables due to the Delta variant.

Meanwhile, Raising Canes is challenging itself by trying to hire 10,000 workers in 50 days.

RELATED: September jobs report: US adds weak 194K jobs as delta maintains hold