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Job Market Idea Proposal

Job Market Idea Proposal

Will retail stores and restaurants have trouble hiring staff as businesses start to reopen across the country?

Report Available: May 28, 2020


Blueshift’s initial research found businesses readying to reopen as states lift coronavirus restrictions. Some retailers and restaurant operators are concerned about filling out their staffs because of federal unemployment benefits that provide workers incentive to remain off the job. Many workers remain concerned about their own safety but may face pressure to return, especially as heightened unemployment rates could mean difficulty finding work later on.



  1. States across the country are beginning to eye ways to emerge from the coronavirus lockdown. As of May 4, more than half of the states had loosened social distancing restrictions in some way, paving the way for shuttered businesses to consider their next steps. Some national retailers have announced plans to begin re-opening stores, such as GPS, which said it will start opening 800 of its Gap, Old Navy, Banana Republic and Athleta stores this month. Many will do so methodically in an effort to focus on crowd control, social distancing, and cleanliness. Electronics retailer BBY, for example, said that it will begin reopening 200 stores by appointment only.
  2. As economic activity builds, some lawmakers are concerned about a plank of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act of 2020. The Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) piece of the act allows for $600 in weekly federal unemployment benefits on top of state payouts. For some hourly workers, that means they’re better off financially staying unemployed than returning to work. An owner of three West Coast Subway franchises, when interviewed for Blueshift’s April 29 report on GRUB and other food delivery services, said, “We have gotten to the point where it’s starting to be problematic to hire people. People getting unemployment and the extra $600 from the federal government are making more with that than by coming in to work. Other franchise owners I talk to have told me it’s become a problem.” However, the franchise owner said it is likely to be a short-term problem as “unemployment will remain high for a long time and people will want jobs.”
  3. In addition to the financial calculation, some workers remain concerned about the safety of resuming public interactions or being confined with co-workers in indoor spaces, especially in states that are opening despite COVID-19 cases continuing to rise. For food servers, they may be asked to return to restaurants with far less capacity because of social distancing rules, which could significantly reduce the tips they can earn.
  4. But there are numerous reasons employees may need to jump at the chance to resume working. For one, the FPUC and its $600 benefit is slated to expire on July 31, though three Democratic lawmakers have proposed extending it for the duration of the public health emergency. Some states are sending warning signals to employees who refuse to come back to work. Ohio, for example, has set up a hotline for employers to report workers who have been offered their job back but refuse to return, making them ineligible for state or federal unemployment benefits. And some workers who are on furlough continue to have access to some health insurance and retirement benefits that they stand to lose if they do not return.
  5. Workers who are reluctant to come back will also have to gauge what the job market may look like in the coming months. The number of people filing for unemployment benefits continues to rise: Another 3.2 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits in the week ending May 2, bringing the total to more than 33 million claims over the past seven weeks. While nearly 80% of respondents in an Ipsos poll said they expect to return to their old jobs, the Congressional Budget Office has projected the unemployment rate through the summer will average close to 15%, meaning competition for jobs may be fierce.


Are retailers and restaurants having difficulty filling out their staffs as they try to reopen? Are they having to increase wages or benefits to lure workers back? Will restaurants boost wages to make up for lost tips caused by reduced capacity? Are employers willing to report workers who refuse to come back, thus jeopardizing their unemployment benefits? How will businesses navigate the tricky terrain if employees feel unsafe but pressured to come back? To answer these and other questions, Blueshift will gather data and issue a market research report from independent sources in the following areas: Retail store managers, Restaurant managers, Franchise owners, and Industry specialists.  


Companies: Best Buy (BBY), Buffalo Wild Wings (BWLD), Cheesecake Factory (CAKE), Chipotle (CMG), Darden Restaurants (DRI), Dave & Busters (PLAY), Dick’s Sporting Goods (DKS), Five Below (FIVE), Gamestop (GME), Gap (GPS), McDonald’s (MCD), O’Reilly Automotive (ORLY), Panera (PNRA), Restaurant Brands International (QSR), Shake Shack (SHAK), Starbucks (SBUX), TJX Cos (TJX), Ulta (ULTA), Walmart (WMT), Wendy’s (WEN), Yum! Brands (YUM)


Research Begins: May 11, 2020


To see other ideas Blueshift Research is currently working on, please click here.


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