Labor shortage hits home—here’s how to keep Birmingham small businesses alive

2nd Avenue Guide
2nd Avenue North in Birmingham. (Nathan Watson / Bham Now)

At many Birmingham small businesses, operators and consumers alike are feeling the impact of a critical labor shortage. Long wait times, amended hours of operation, delayed opening dates and even seeing some of our favorite places close their doors—including Golden Boy Pizza Company, Tostadas, Sweet Tea and more. Dare I mention the delayed re-openings at Birmingham staples like Highlands Bar & Grill…?

What’s causing the labor shortage for Birmingham small businesses?

Labor shortages = major issues across the country. How severe, you ask? Well, in a study by Alignable, it was reported that 60% of US small businesses still can’t find the workers to fill open jobs. Also worth mentioning: smallbiztrends found that US small businesses lost 120,000 jobs during April 2022 alone, which is credited to difficulty keeping up with rising operating costs and competitive wages. Meanwhile, medium and large businesses had an overall gain of 247,000 jobs.

We caught up with the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama (EDPA) and the Birmingham Business Alliance (BBA) to take a closer look at this national issue through a local lens. Why are there 26,000 job openings in our area right now?

The main takeaways:

  • Job Market is HOT—talent pool is competitive and job seekers are willing to switch companies as needed for better job and quality of life.
  • Birmingham’s labor force participation rate is lower than the national average, which experts believe may be due to health care, child care and transportation access.
  • The ongoing pandemic and supply chain issues are bad news for sourcing top, in-person talent.  

“Talent has been an important issue for Alabama businesses, large and small, for years—but it has become all the more urgent with an ongoing pandemic, supply chain issues, and an increasingly remote workforce.”

—Miller Girvin, Executive Vice President of Innovation & Talent, EDPA

Birmingham small business owners speak out

birmingham business
29 votes — Poll posted Wednesday, May 25.

On our LinkedIn, we connected with Birmingham small business owners to hear exactly how they have been impacted by the labor shortage.

The majority shared that the biggest issue has been finding employees. This result wasn’t a huge surprise, considering we’ve seen businesses like Great Harvest Bread Co. in Trussville list lack of labor as one of the reasons for their closure.

There have been a number of local small business closures, including:

We’ve also seen delayed openings/re-openings, like:

“We hope to reopen Highlands as soon as we have enough team members. We are looking for bartenders, servers, server assistants and maître d’s. Pardis and I, and all of our staff, are anxious and excited to reopen Highlands.”

—Frank Stitt, owner and executive chef, Highlands Bar & Grill

Resources to navigate the labor shortage

If you’re a business owner feeling the pressure of these constraints, we have a few resources to share—all with the goal of mitigating the labor crisis and helping Birmingham small businesses thrive.

“Small businesses are the lifeblood of our community. Every business has to start somewhere, and that’s why the BBA is dedicated to helping businesses launch, grow and thrive in our community. From reactivating our chamber of commerce to our hands-on educational programming, our team wakes up every single day ready to support small businesses in Birmingham.”

Emily Jerkins Hall, President & Chief Operating Officer, BBA 

You can continue to support local business

Jimmy Truong
Support our beloved local businesses, like June Coffee. (Cecilia Wood / Bham Now)

So, where do the consumers come in? In addition to showing plenty of grace and patience in the world of understaffed restaurants and never-ending supply chain issues, we must continue to support our local spots.

With our comprehensive guide of 892 small, local businesses, supporting Birmingham is easier than ever.

How have your favorite Birmingham small businesses been impacted by the labor shortage? We want to hear from you @BhamNow.

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Madison Croxson
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