Employers still looking for new hires, offering incentives including higher wages

PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - One positive aspect of hurricane Michael: it's providing a lot of job seekers higher starting wages and better benefits.

After many workers fled the area after the storm, several Panama City Beach businesses are doing what they can just to get new employees in the door.

Many Panama City Beach businesses are still looking to hire six months after Hurricane Michael and they say it isn't getting any easier.

Trudy White, the Owner of Dat Cajun Place said, "It's hard to find people, we'll pretty much hire anyone that comes in at this point."

Business owners like Tracy Johnstone are starting to use incentives, like higher wages, to get more potential hires in the door.

"We were probably at about a $9.80 average rate in our organization for hourly workers before the storm," said Johnstone, an owner and operator of McDonald's franchises in Bay County, "and we're now sitting anywhere upwards of $13 an hour."

Other local businesses, like Pineapple Willy's in Panama City Beach are offering more to new hires as well.

Dwayne Tillman, the kitchen manager at Pineapple Willy's said, "We're hiring at a higher rate this year after the hurricane than we ever have in the past. We're paying, like I said, $12 to $15 an hour depending on experience."

Managers say Pineapple Willy's is also offering insurance and overtime as extra incentives.

Even larger corporations like McDonald's are putting more on the table for new hires.

Johnstone added, "We've offered gift cards for hiring, sign-on bonuses, referral bonuses, we've done special events for hiring."

But even with the incentives, Johnstone says, "That isn't working either. There's just not enough people, there are more jobs than there are people in the community."

White added, "We keep advertising on social media and everything else and no one comes in."

With summer approaching owners say they're hoping something changes before another busy season kicks off.

Many say one big reason it's been tough to find workers is the higher cost of housing on the beach since the storm.