Unemployment drops in Austin, demand for restaurant workers continues to rise

As the Texas economy continues to recover, the employment rate continues to drop.

According to the Texas workforce solution, the unemployment rate for the Austin area has dropped to 3.9% for the beginning of the year, this is lower than the state (4.3%) and national unemployment rate (3.7%). While this rate trends downwards they report certain jobs continue to see high demand.

The hunt for new employees continues to be a challenge for restaurants in Austin.

"Before the pandemic you didn’t have an issue finding people, you would have people coming in saying hey are you hiring and you’d be able to hire people that way," said Robby Nethercut the Chief operations officer at Z’Tejas. 

Z’Tejas, which has a location in downtown, is looking to expand up north in Avery Ranch. 

On Tuesday, they held a job fair as their goal is to hire 50 employees. "We are hiring for all positions, servers, hosts, folks who work in the kitchen, bartenders, we are looking for everybody."

Nethercut said the pandemic has really changed the game when it came to hiring, as it can be difficult to bring in new help. 

"I think the thing that makes it particularly challenging about The restaurant industry is the fact that you’re dealing with the public. Not only is it a job where you have to be ready and attentive and present in every moment because you’re serving others. You can’t predict how you’re going to be treated by someone else sometimes, so it’s a little bit different than going to an office and knowing what to expect each day."

According to the Workforce Solutions Capital area, jobs in the leisure & hospitality industry, like restaurants and hotels, saw the biggest need for employees in the Austin metro area last year versus any other industry. 

A striking contrast to the area's low unemployment rate. 

This has resulted in restaurants like Z’Tejas to hold job fairs and offer jobs on the spot. On Tuesday they said they hired about six people. 

"That’s phenomenal because what most restaurant folks can attest to the fact that you might set up three or four interviews and then maybe one shows up or maybe no one shows up and that’s just kind of the day today in most restaurants," said Nethercut.

It’s not just hiring new employees which poses a challenge but also opening new restaurants. Z’Tejas told FOX 7 Austin, their North Austin location would’ve been last year if the pandemic didn’t happen. 

"The pandemic really seem to delay and draw everything out the permitting process to take six months to even get looked at where is before you may have just a four week or five week time," said Nethercut.

Even supplies or equipment can take months to arrive instead of weeks in the days before the pandemic.

Even with all the issues the pandemic has brought Z’Tejas is excited to open their new location next month.

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