Labor shortages and supply-chain disruptions hit Lexington businesses

Several downtown shops said they are dealing with a lack of workers and shipment delays, a byproduct of the pandemic-era economy’s slow recovery


A sign outside of Napa Thai advertises that the restaurant is hiring. Photo by Shauna Muckle, ’24.

Luke Fountain

Lexington businesses are struggling to find workers to fill shifts, bus tables and check out customers, reflecting a national labor shortage. Meanwhile, supply-chain shortages have only exacerbated the crisis.

Local business owners said that they can’t find workers and pay is rapidly rising. Some downtown restaurants, including Napa Thai and Niko’s Grille on Main Street, have posted signs reading, “We’re Hiring!” or “Short-staffed, please be patient.”

Highlighting the crisis, the manager at Macado’s restaurant in downtown Lexington, McKala Harman, said that she “didn’t have enough time right now” to comment on the worker shortage because she was one of only three workers able to fill shifts at the busy lunch hours.

The assistant manager at Walkabout Outfitters, McKenna King, reported a similar issue.

“Our Lexington location has enough workers, but our other stores can’t find anyone to work,” she said.

An October analysis of federal unemployment data by Stateline, a research center focusing on state policy, revealed that Lexington is one of many areas struggling with worker shortages. 42 states have more job openings than people seeking employment, Stateline reported.

A lack of workers is not the only threat to the local economy. Supply-chain issues stemming from a lack of workers and a trade war with China have created numerous problems for the upcoming holiday season, local business owners said. 

Trez Sebrell, the manager at Ladles & Linens Kitchen Shoppe, a home goods store in downtown Lexington, said that “supply chain issues have gotten better, [but] they are still not good.” 

“There no longer are products just sitting in a warehouse waiting to be shipped,” Sebrell said. Instead, “it is taking about 90 days from when we place an order for it to arrive.”

King detailed a similar struggle at Walkabout Outfitters. For every order her store sends in, some items inevitably get delayed due to the fragile global supply chain, she said.

“It’s almost impossible to receive our full shipment on time,” King said. 

Local business owners still expressed hope for the future. With COVID-19 infections tapering off in time for the holiday season, they said they are once again seeing new customers enter their stores.

Sebrell said that she actually expects good things to come for her store.

“I think we will see an increase in business since customers aren’t having any luck finding [products] in stock on Amazon,” she said.

While the labor shortage and supply-chain delays persist, national statistics suggest that the job market may be improving.

According to a recent jobs report by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, nearly 531,000 jobs were added and filled nationwide in October, whereas only 194,000 were added the previous month. 

The unemployment rate also fell to a pandemic low of 4.6%, compared to a 6.7% unemployment rate last year at this time. 

Job creation has been led by the leisure and hospitality industries, followed by the professional, business services and manufacturing sectors, according to the report. However, there are still five million fewer jobs compared to before the pandemic.