Now that U.S. pandemic unemployment payments are over, are more people applying to jobs?

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NEW HANOVER COUNTY (WWAY) — Just after federal pandemic unemployment benefits ended, the Cape Fear is seeing an increase in job seekers.

Both New Hanover and Pender County NC Works sites said they’re seeing more than double the usual job seekers on a daily basis.

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According to Brian Leach with NC Works, New Hanover County’s site typically sees eight job seekers a day.

Feeling the pressure to keep businesses staffed, many employers have been offering better wages and working environments to stay afloat.

“A lot of places have had to up their salary in order to attract better or more applicants,” said Leach. “Certainly, we’ve seen certainly we’ve seen that in the realm of the fast food industry.”

But after the federal government discontinued $300 pandemic unemployment payments, that number began to increase. Monday in New Hanover County, 20 people waited in line for job search assistance.

“I believe it was due to the ending of the federal unemployment,” Leach guessed. “But it could be also people, students that are looking to get back into school. Retraining. Obviously, the semester started back in August.”

Pender County is seeing a similar trend. Leach said before September, they would see about seven applicants a day. Now, it’s around 15.

“I do believe we’re going to continue seeing increased traffic,” he said. “Our phones have been pretty much ringing off the hook.”

While NC Works is seeing an increase, restaurant owners like J. Michael Hutson have yet to see those trends trickle down.

“We haven’t had a lot apply,” Hutson began. “We’ve had folks that come in and they come in without pens. And they’re not really applying, I think. They’re just going through the motions.”

Leach believes based on the trends, the staffing shortage should eventually end.

“We’re hopeful here,” Leach continued. “We’re certainly able to help the community any way we can. Businesses and individuals.”

Several long-time businesses, particularly restaurants haven’t been able to hold on. Those who have aren’t sure the end is in sight.

According to Hutson, “I really don’t know. We’re in untested waters. I tease about it, but really we’ve been flying by the seat of our britches for a long time now.”

North Carolina’s unemployment rate fell to 4.3 percent in August.

While Pender and New Hanover Counties have seen major increases, Bladen and Columbus have only seen slight upticks in job searchers. Brunswick County’s NC Works said they haven’t seen any increase at all.