- U.S. businesses say they are struggling to find workers, especially for part-time jobs.
- Joey Holtz decided to test their claims by submitting two applications a day in September.
- Holtz got one interview and his summary of the experiment went viral on multiple platforms.
Joey Holtz recalled first hearing complaints about the labor shortage last year when he called to donate convalescent plasma at a clinic near Fort Myers, Florida.
“The guy started talking about how he couldn’t get help and couldn’t keep anyone at his medical facility because everyone left because of the incentive checks,” Holtz told Insider. “And I’m like, ‘Your medical professionals dropped checks for over $1,200?’ That’s weird.”
Over the next few months, the 37-year-old watched as a growing chorus of businesses said they couldn’t find anyone to hire because of the government stimulus money. It was so ubiquitous that he joined a Facebook group called “Nobody Wants to Work,” where users created memes mocking frustrated employers.
He said he finds it hard to believe that government money is keeping people out of the workforce, especially when the end of extended federal unemployment benefits doesn’t appear to have sparked a jump in employment. All extended aid ended in September, but 26 states — including Florida — ended it in early June and July.
“If that extra money that everybody’s supposed to live on stops in June and it’s now September, obviously that’s not what’s stopping them,” he said. Workers said companies struggling to hire don’t offer competitive pay and benefits.
So Holtz, a former food industry worker and charter boat crew member, decided to conduct an experiment.
On Sept. 1, he sent out job applications to two restaurants that have been particularly public about their staffing challenges.
He then expanded the test and spent the rest of the month applying for jobs—mostly at employers short of workers—and tracking his commute on a spreadsheet.
Two weeks and 28 applications later, he received only nine email responses, one follow-up phone call and one interview with a construction company that advertised a full-time job focused on cleaning the site, paying $10 an hour.
But Holtz said the construction company instead tried to offer Florida’s minimum wage of $8.65 to start, even though the wage was scheduled to increase to $10 an hour on Sept. 30. He added that he wants full-time availability, while planning only part-time until Holtz is promoted.
Holtz said he doesn’t apply for roles he isn’t responsible for.
Some jobs “wanted a high school diploma,” he said. “Some wanted retail experience,” he added. “Most of them said either ‘willing to train’ or ‘minimal experience,’ and none of them were over $12 an hour.”
He said: “I didn’t apply for anything that required a degree. I didn’t apply for anything that said ‘I have to have six months of experience in this thing’.”
Holtz is not alone. Others also talked about their problems finding work despite a seemingly tight job market.
In a Sept. 29 Facebook post that also went viral on Twitter and Reddit, Holtz said, “58 apps say you’re not all desperate for workers, you’re just missing your slaves.”
“My view is that this is a familiar story to many,” he added.
By the end of September, Holtz had sent out 60 applications, received 16 email responses, four follow-up phone calls and the lone interview. He shared a pie chart showing his results.
Holtz acknowledged that his results may not be representative of the country’s larger labor challenges because his search was local and targeted the most vocal critics of stimulus spending.
He added that despite claims of some businesses struggling to hire, his boss had no staffing problems during the pandemic.
“No one leaves these positions because they care about their people,” Holtz said, referring to his boss.