Apr. 24—When lunchtime rolls around and I've forgotten to bring a meal to work, I head down Lima's Elida Road looking for a fast-food place to eat.
I enjoy stepping out of my workplace for a bit and enjoying some time away from the newsroom. I'm not looking to go through a drive-thru; I want to go sit down and enjoy my meal.
My question lately is whether I'm willing to pay $10 for a sandwich for the right to go inside and enjoy it.
Slowly but surely, fast-food restaurants are reopening their dining rooms. Some have been faster to do it than others. You'll find a few that opened, only to close the dining areas again. Signs on their doors explain the reason, a shortage of staff.
There were 162 restaurant jobs posted on OhioMeansJob.com within 10 miles of Lima on Thursday night. In fact, of the 2,173 jobs listed there, 592 of them, or 27.4% of the jobs, are labeled as entry-level jobs, making less than $30,000 per year.
It's a common complaint among people who are doing the hiring right now. There are jobs out there. There just aren't enough people coming forward to take them unless you're paying top dollar.
We've had an opening in our newsroom for a reporter since January. It's been a struggle to replace that person. We've talked to a lot of people. We actually hired one person, who never showed up for the first day of work. Apparently it's called "ghosting," and it happens in a lot of lower-paying positions.
I'm told by people who hire people for a living that's what's going to happen if you don't pay top dollar right now. People won't show up for interviews. Some will take a job and then turn it down later when another option comes along. I've had rookie reporter candidates who believed they should be making a larger salary than I make with 20-plus years of experience.
It's troubling for me. I remember starting my career earning $8.50 an hour in 1997. In today's dollars, that's $13.89 per hour. I honestly can't imagine accepting that job and not showing up for work on the first day. We were offering more than that for our recent reporter position. From my math, that means they're earning more now than I earned then, and I was happy to take it then.
It all makes you wonder which positions deserve top dollar. It's easy to say everyone should make more money, but simple math tells you that just isn't possible.
Sure, we could pay everyone in our building $5 more an hour. It would make them all happier in the short run, and it would've been easier to fill some open positions. Long-term, it'd be a horrible decision. We'd have to charge more money for advertising and subscriptions. Would you pay $5 a day for your newspaper? Or should we get rid of some staff to balance the books? Neither sounds like a good option to me.
That's the challenge as we go through this strange job market. What are we willing to pay, and for what? Should every position earn top dollar?
Or should we accept that some jobs are entry-level jobs, these starter jobs meant for people just getting into the workforce?
Ultimately, the choice will be made for us all by the collective market. I can't believe any of us really want to pay $10 for a fast-food sandwich or $5 for a newspaper.
David Trinko is managing editor of The Lima News. Reach him at 567-242-0467, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Lima_Trinko.