By Lauren Wanko
Bartender Monica Maione feels lucky and relieved. Lucky to return to work this summer at Jimbo’s Bar and Grill in Seaside Heights while job seekers search for a new seasonal gig.
“I’ve had a lot of people that were like, ‘Can I just fill out an application? I want to do anything,'” Maione said. “There’s people whose jobs in this area may not be existent now, and so if they see a place like this is open, they’ll be like, ‘They’re open. I might as well apply because there’s some people that definitely won’t have their jobs this season.'”
The damaged Casino Pier will cut its workforce by 40 percent this summer — from 500 workers to about 300. The standard 200 employees will remain in the water park and they may hire throughout the summer as rides open on the pier.
“It’s hard to turn away some employees that have been coming back but if we don’t have the spots open it’s hard to cut those ties sorta thing, so we’re trying to hire as much as possible but again if we don’t know what’s open we can’t over hire at the same time,” Maria Mastoris, marketing manager of Casino Pier and Breakwater Beach said.
Other businesses don’t expect a drop in the number of job postings.
“I’m thinking that we’re gonna be hiring as many, looking to hire as many as last year and we’re hopeful that it is going to be busy,” said Kim Manara, general manager of Jimbo’s Bar & Grill.
The largest sector in New Jersey to add seasonal jobs in the summer months is the leisure and hospitality industry. The Department of Labor and Workforce Development says employment in that industry typically increases by 35,000 to 40,000 workers during the season, which lasts from May through September.
But will that increase in employment take a hit since Sandy pounded the Jersey Shore? Some business owners say it’s too soon to tell. Others are optimistic. Store owner Adam Miller expects to hire the same number of foreign exchange workers this summer, but interviews were put on hold.
“We’re just sitting and waiting. Waiting for the boardwalk to be done so we can fix the whole store,” Miller said.
Frank Rainey normally operates Frankie’s Amusements on the boardwalk. He’s working in a parking lot until construction is completed.
“I’m used to a crowded boardwalk. When you’re only dealing with one-third or less of the people it’s difficult because you sit for long periods of time. It can be disheartening after a while but I think when the people come back everything will be fine,” Rainey said.
But will people come back to the shore this summer?
“I feel like that’s gonna go either way. I feel like we’re gonna have a successful year cause everyone wants to see who has not had a chance to come down here yet and see or it’s gonna be like people want to avoid cause they don’t know about the beach, they don’t know about the boardwalk,” Maione said.
The upcoming season is filled with uncertainties but one thing is certain — businesses and their employees are counting on a successful summer.