In the continuing pandemic, businesses need workers, but are jobs meeting the needs of residents?

by Matt Petras, PublicSource

Alex Osgood lost his job selling wine to restaurants when the pandemic hit, but he gained a more intimate connection to his three young children at home.

“We’ve been together for so long,” Osgood said. “We’re bonded.”

His wife works remotely as a mental health therapist once a week and does maintenance work for assisted living facilities the rest of the time. That brings in enough income to keep the household afloat. But the Regent Square family’s finances are still tighter than they’d like, said Osgood, 39.

It proved difficult for him to find a job that would reasonably offset childcare costs — which he estimates as at least $1,500 a month — so for much of the pandemic, Osgood has not been actively looking for a job.

With his children returning to school soon, he’s looking again. But the experience has made him doubt whether the restaurant industry really fits him anymore.

“I don’t want to be the dad that’s never there, and I think that the pandemic’s really given me a clear perspective on what I want in terms of a work-life balance,” Osgood said, explaining that he wants to be productive, while avoiding “something that is going to suck up my entire life.”

Osgood finds himself in a similar predicament as many others in the Pittsburgh area and around the country: there are jobs available, but due to pay, hours or the nature of the work, many of them don’t make sense to take. Businesses are having difficulty hiring and maintaining workers. Some are extending remote work or raising pay, though the disconnect between open jobs and workers willing to fill them is particularly pronounced locally.

In his work for Pittsburgh Black Workers Center, Jamaal Craig said he’s found that Black workers in particular are often frustrated by a job market that just doesn’t mesh with what they need or want.

“The thing that I hear the most is that everything’s service-related,” said Craig, an organizer with the center. “You know, ‘I’m looking for a job that’s gonna utilize more skills than making a hamburger or wiping down a toilet.’”

He’s also become aware of the ways the job market is especially hostile toward Black residents.

“What’s precluding or prohibiting Black people from getting into spaces that pay well, jobs that pay well, a lot of times it’s discrimination,” Craig said. “Bias.”

 

Alex Osgood photographed at his home in Regent Square. (Photo by Quinn Glabicki/PublicSource)

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In the continuing pandemic, businesses need workers, but are jobs meeting the needs of residents?

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