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Service Industries in Durham Face Employee Shortage

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DURHAM — Employers just cannot hire enough people to work in restaurants, hotels and other service industries.Durhamleaders are trying to fill hundreds of those jobs right now, but one business owner says the shortage could force him to close his doors.

These days, take-out is the only option on the Tiger Lily restaurant's menu.

Owner Marco Kao had to stop serving lunch and dinner because he cannot find enough cooks, waiters and cashiers to staff his restaurant.

"It's real hard to find good help," Kao says. "Nobody's looking for a job."

A "take out only" sign hangs next to a "help wanted" ad. Kao used to have ten employees. Today, he has just one.

The tables sit empty, and Kao's regular customers order their food to go. He does the cooking himself, and his dishwasher doubles as a cashier.

"We do everything to help each other out," Kao says.

Employment experts say there are at least 200 service sector jobs open at any given time in Durham. They are working to help employers fill them.

"People, that before had worked in the service industry, are moving into other types of jobs that traditionally pay better," says Kathy Keefe of theEmployment Security Commission. "We're trying to look at untapped resources, and employers are becoming more flexible."

Marco Kao is trying to be competitive. He is paying more than minimum wage, even more than some chain restaurants. If he does not find help soon, he may have to shut down.

The Employment Security Commission is working with the hospitality industry to bring employers and prospective employees together, but they also say the shortage is a problem for business owners in every sector.


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