HAMBURG, N.Y. — Jimmy Butera owns Butera's Craft Beer, Pizza and Brew House in Hamburg. He's also the president of the Western New York chapter of the New York State Restaurant Association.
He's seeing his business and the industry as a whole continue to recover from the pandemic economy.
"This industry's never taken a hit like this ever in history, so bouncing back is going to happen,” he said. “Of course, it's going to happen. It's just exciting to see. Bouncing back, people want to get back out of the house and get into their normal routines.”
Butera says the lifting of state restrictions on capacity and social distancing will be a big boost. His biggest concern, however, is finding enough staff. He's having a hard time hiring. He attributes that to increased unemployment payments during the pandemic, as well as people leaving the hospitality industry because of uncertainty as many jobs were lost.
"On one hand you're excited because you can open up, but it's like the floodgates are coming in and we can't trickle it down because we don't have the staff to accommodate everybody," Butera said.
According to the state Department of Labor, unemployment in New York state dropped below 8% in May to 7.8%. That's above the national average of 5%.
For areas outside New York City — the numbers are better — at 5.5%, while the state added 17,500 private sector jobs for the month.
Over the past year, jobs in the hospitality and leisure sector have gone up nearly 60%.
"I think it's good news,” said Fred Floss, chair of the department of Economics and Finance at SUNY Buffalo State. “I think we're starting to come back.”
Floss says we should be somewhat surprised that the hospitality and leisure sector is recovering as quickly as it is.
"We've heard how hard it is has been to hire individuals, but it seems they're being hired back," he said.
Floss points to manufacturing as another area where the job outlook has been a positive sign for the state's economy. Overall, he says it will still take some time to get back to pre-pandemic levels — but it's headed in the right direction.
"And as we feel more normal, we're going to spend more money, we're going to move forward," Floss said. "People are going to feel more comfortable hiring individuals. So all of those are important things that are going to happen."
For Jimmy Butera, he's still frustrated as he tries to hire more people, but he's hoping that will be on the upswing, too.
"The whole thing is that there's going to be a lot of growth,” he said. “We need people to come back to work.”