WALL – An unusually dry summer helped to raise revenues for Monmouth County’s Shore towns, but the region’s busy business community is struggling to find enough workers, County Commissioner Director Thomas A. Arnone said Thursday morning at Allaire Community Farm.
As tourists flocked to Monmouth County’s towns this past summer, beach revenues grew to more than $29 million, up 7% from the previous year, Arnone said. It also tops the $24.5 million brought in during the summer of 2020, at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We’re extremely happy,” he told his fellow commissioners and county officials who gathered at the farm to celebrate the revenue news.
Weather was a large contributor to the summer’s success, Arnone said.
In July, Monmouth County received little more than an inch of rain, when more than 4 inches is typical for the month, according to Rutgers University climate data. The dry spell continued through August, when only 2 inches of rain fell in the county compared to the normal 4, according to the university’s data.
Most of Monmouth and Middlesex counties remain in severe drought conditions, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.
The summer’s success led to a challenge for Monmouth County businesses owners, who found keeping customers happy more difficult amid a national labor shortage.
“We had a very busy summer. Tourism was over the top,” said Evelyn Mars, executive director of the Jersey Shore Chamber of Commerce. “But our business (community) has struggled. … They are exhausted from trying to hold on to employees and work in an atmosphere that is hot right now.”
New Jersey labor shortageTips for finding workers — and keeping them from quitting
Across the country, early retirements driven by the pandemic, a shortage of foreign workers and a smaller working age population have contributed to the business owner stress, experts say.
In August, New Jersey’s unemployment rate was a slim 4%, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
“This past week, I heard from two separate restaurants … they’re struggling big time keeping employees,” Arnone said. “Obviously, as soon as our college kids went back to college, it became even more difficult (to staff businesses).”
At Allaire Community Farm, Monmouth County officials hope a program that trains at-risk youth as well as adults and teens with various disabilities to work in restaurants will help connect young adults with prospective employers.
Farm owner Sean Burney said the county is supportive of the program and is helping to fund the educational initiative. Here, the students are learning to make restaurant products from the farm’s produce, like making pesto from fresh farm-grown basil.
“The kids love what they’re doing here,” he said.
Joanne Burney, Sean’s wife, said a county grant will help her family farm build new learning resources for students.
“We’ll have a commercial kitchen in there to do culinary arts training with our aged-out (of school) special needs populations,” she said. “We’re just so thankful.”
Across Monmouth County, small businesses with five or fewer employees and nonprofit groups are eligible to receive $20,000 in reimbursements for payroll, rent, building repairs, supplies and employee training.
“Our focus up through the holidays (will be) to make sure that this busy time of the season … our businesses are well equipped and given the staff (to succeed),” Arnone said.
‘Just killing ourselves’:No days off for Shore business owners with summer labor shortage
Amanda Oglesby is an Ocean County native who covers Brick, Barnegat and Lacey townships as well as the environment. She has worked for the Press for more than a decade. Reach her at @OglesbyAPP, [email protected] or 732-557-5701.