- Title: Economic recovery still a rollercoaster at Santa Cruz boardwalk
- Date: 29th June 2021
- Summary: SANTA CRUZ, CALIFORNIA, UNITED STATES (JUNE 28, 2021) (REUTERS) VARIOUS OF GIANT DIPPER ROLLERCOASTER ON TRACKS LOGO FOR BOARDWALK ON ROLLERCOASTER RIDERS IN SEATS OF GIANT DIPPER VARIOUS OF SANTA CRUZ BEACH BOARDWALK PRESIDENT KARL RICE CHECKING RIDERS IN SEATS GIANT DIPPER RIDE STARTING (SOUNDBITE) (English) KARL RICE, SANTA CRUZ BEACH BOARDWALK PRESIDENT, SAYING: "The question as to why would I and others like myself be working ride shifts at the Giant Dipper? I think there are several answers to that question. You know, initially, as we were reopening in early April, we were short-staffed and that's still the case today. But when you're short-staffed, it's sort of all hands on deck, particularly when you're coming out of a pandemic and business is returning. We all were out there with our sleeves rolled up, working hard side by side with some of our frontline staff." VARIOUS OF RIDERS IN LINE FOR THE GIANT DIPPER RIDE FINISHING UP RICE AND OTHERS HELPING RIDERS OUT OF SEATS LOGO FOR GIANT DIPPER VARIOUS OF RICE TALKING WITH RIDERS (SOUNDBITE) (English) KARL RICE, SANTA CRUZ BEACH BOARDWALK PRESIDENT, SAYING: "So with Fourth of July a week away and, you know, undoubtedly that will be a very busy weekend. We've seen a lot of busy weekends here in recent weeks, but Fourth of July historically is always one of, if not our most busy weekends. So from a staffing perspective, I mean, we'll be as ready as we're going to be. And we're not staff to the level that we would like. But we'll certainly have enough staff to be able to open most of what we offer here and to give our guests a good experience." EMPTY RIDE LIFT VARIOUS OF CROWDS AT BOARDWALK VARIOUS OF CLOSED STALLS (SOUNDBITE) (English) KARL RICE, SANTA CRUZ BEACH BOARDWALK PRESIDENT, SAYING: "Like, like I said, I think we're going to be chasing labor or struggling to find enough labor for the remainder of the summer. So, you know, thinking about opening all of our locations, I doubt we're going to get to a point where every single food (or) ride is open. Rides we focused on initially more so than some of our food locations. So at this point on weekends at least, we're opening all of our rides, which is great. People come here, they want to ride our rides so the more we can open and offer up, the better. But I think this is going to be representative certainly during the week for the remainder of the summer." VARIOUS OF RIDERS CHECKING IN FOR THE CLIFF HANGER RIDE RIDER OPERATOR AT CLIFF HANGER VARIOUS OF RIDERS GETTING READY (SOUNDBITE) (English) KARL RICE, SANTA CRUZ BEACH BOARDWALK PRESIDENT, SAYING: "I have to say, at the end of a shift: one, I feel like I've contributed and I feel proud about the hard work I put in that day. And two, I'm really eager and excited to sit down because my aching back and feet are tired and telling me that they are tired. So there's no shame in putting your feet up after a hard day's work." VARIOUS OF CLIFF HANGER RIDE SIGNAGE FOR CLIFF HANGER MORE VARIOUS OF CLIFF HANGER RIDE
- Embargoed: 13th July 2021 18:21
- Keywords: COVID-19 economy Santa Cruz Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk coronavirus coronavirus economic recovery economy
- Location: SANTA CRUZ, CALIFORNIA, UNITED STATES
- City: SANTA CRUZ, CALIFORNIA, UNITED STATES
- Country: USA
- Topics: Economic Events,United States
- Reuters ID: LVA001EJLD3K7
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: Since reopening in April after a yearlong pandemic shutdown, Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk has been busy, and this July 4th weekend looks set to bring the biggest crowds yet.
But the 114-year-old amusement park, a couple of hours south of San Francisco, is operating with only about 1,000 employees, about half what's usual for the summer season.
To make sure all rides can stay open, "it's sort of all hands on deck," said Boardwalk President Karl Rice, whose family owns the park. All executives are working attractions or food stands at least once a week this summer. Rice himself takes two eight-hour shifts a week, usually helping guests in and out of the park's marquee rollercoaster, the Giant Dipper.
As the country approaches the Independence Day celebrations that the Biden administration hoped could mark the country's emergence from the pandemic, the U.S. economy is both back to normal, and very far from being so.
The mask-wearing and social distancing rules of the last 15 months are largely gone. Unrestricted sellout crowds at Major League Baseball stadiums and restaurant waiting lists are back.
But there is something of a speed limit on the economic rebound. Last weekend's $93 million box office take for 10 movie sales was the best since Valentine's Day, 2020, before the pandemic, yet weekly revenue remains roughly half of what it was before the crisis.
"Who knew reopening would be as hard as it has been?" Richmond Federal Reserve bank president Thomas Barkin said on Monday as he recounted the list of anomalies: Theme parks limiting their hours because they can't hire enough workers, despite high ongoing unemployment; auto factories slowing production because of supply shortages in an era of record sales.
By output, the U.S. has recovered. According to the latest estimate from the Atlanta Fed's GDPNow, the U.S. has surpassed its $19.3 trillion pre-pandemic levels. By jobs, it is still more than 7 million in the hole, with likely many months to go before anything like a full recovery is reached.
"From a staffing perspective, I mean, we'll be as ready as we're going to be. And we're not staffed to the level that we would like. But we'll certainly have enough staff to be able to open most of what we offer here and to give our guests a good experience," Rice said, adding that July 4th is historically the boardwalk's busiest weekend.
Unusually for a recession, people have money to spend, and from an unusual source: the government. Ongoing unemployment insurance payments, upcoming child tax credits, and other federal aid are keeping households flush. Unclear is when or if private wages will take up the slack as those programs end.
And they are spending it. Particularly in recent weeks spending on services - the lion's share of household outlays, which make up 70% of the economy -- is ticking up. Many restaurants are crowded and owners complain of difficulties hiring.
But overall the leisure and hospitality industry is still missing 15% of its jobs from before the pandemic. By contrast, jobs in finance are effectively back to normal at just over 99% of the pre-pandemic level.
With COVID-19 infections falling, people are eating out again, with seated diners back to pre-pandemic levels, OpenTable data shows.
U.S. air travel has climbed back steadily but, with international travel still crimped and business travel slow, it's still about 75% of 2019 levels. Travel management company TripActions says bookings for air and ground transport as well as hotels have more than quadrupled since the start of the year, but have only reached 60% of their pre-pandemic level. International business travel is at 18%.
And the labor market remains far from normal.
Though there are several million more unemployed than before the pandemic, U.S. businesses also report a record number of job openings. Companies want workers, and workers are quitting jobs in large numbers, presumably to take others that are more rewarding. But net job growth has been slow compared to the numbers needed to get back to pre-pandemic levels.
Republican governors have blamed sluggish job-to-worker matching on enriched federal unemployment benefits they feel encourages people to stay home, and have moved to cancel those extra payments.
William Spriggs, a Howard University economics professor and chief economist for the AFL-CIO, suggested a different explanation: Skilled workers in slower-to-recover industries are waiting to resume careers and not feeling compelled to take any job that comes along.
At the Boardwalk, the pandemic shutdown and lack of much advance notice about the reopening meant that seasonal hiring this year started months later than usual. When it did, competition for workers was stiff because all local businesses were ramping up at once.
Applicants surged after the park offered a $300 bonus every two weeks for those clocking at least 30 hours a week, says human resources director Sabra Reyes. The limiting factor now, she says, is how fast she can train and onboard new hires.
In the meantime, Rice said they'll keep some rides and food stalls closed during the week due to the shortage in labor and prioritize the rides on the weekends.
"I think we're going to be chasing labor or struggling to find enough labor for the remainder of the summer," he said. "People come here, they want to ride our rides so the more we can open and offer up, the better. But I think this is going to be representative certainly during the week for the remainder of the summer."
(Production: Nathan Frandino, Ann Saphir, Howard Schneider)
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