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Workers want better pay and incentives, and businesses are responding

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A "Help Wanted" sign posted outside of a restaurant.

Many small businesses are realizing they have to compete with the amount of money people are receiving in unemployment benefits if they want to fill empty positions. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

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A new report out Tuesday from the marketing and sales tracking platform Salesforce gives a sense of just how hard it’s been for small businesses to attract new hires. They’re offering everything from bonuses to flexible work schedules. And, almost a third of businesses surveyed say that they’ve increased wages significantly. That can be hard on those businesses, but as some economists point out, it’s also a signal that there’s not so much a shortage of labor, but more a shortage of well-paying jobs.

At Sugapeach Chicken and Fish Fry in Iowa, Chad Simmons said his most popular plate is called “The Pleaser.” 

“Which is two pieces of chicken, two pieces of fish.” Plus two sides – collard greens and mac and cheese perhaps. Simmons increased wages, but he’s still short-staffed. 

“It’s extremely tough,” he said.

And, Simmons said it’s hard to keep workers when there are lots of other jobs that pay more. 

“It’s like the food chain … everyone’s working their way up,” he said.

Sylvia Allegretto at UC Berkeley said the quit rate reflects that – there’s a lot of shuffling in the workforce. 

“Workers are looking for … the best jobs for themselves and their families to make end[s] meet,” she said.

More than half of small-and-medium businesses have had to offer incentives to attract new hires. Including, said Enrique Ortegon with Salesforce, “increased wages, flexible remote work, cash signing bonuses, improved benefits, it’s working.”

For now, but it’s not clear whether higher wages and other benefits are here to stay. 

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