Knoebels raises pay to lure staff
ELYSBURG (AP) — Knoebels is hiking its starting pay rate by up to $1 as it seeks to hire several hundred more workers at its understaffed park this summer.
The amusement resort also will give employees and new hires 16 and older a chance to win a 2021 Chevrolet Trailblazer valued at more than $23,000 as an incentive to work at the park.
The park, which celebrated its 95th birthday on the Fourth of July, was holding a job fair on Thursday and said it may hire employees on the spot.
Knoebels’ workforce is around 1,450 heading into tonight’s job fair, park spokeswoman Stacy Yutko said this week.
That’s a 37% reduction from a pre-pandemic, park workforce of around 2,300 in 2019.
Yutko explained fewer workers has meant fewer rides have been open for customers this season.
The park has operated about 75% of its 60 rides daily.
“There are a handful of rides that are currently closed due to delays in parts shipment, but the majority of closed rides is due to staffing challenges,” Yutko said.
“For example, Flying Turns has remained closed, since it takes eight team members to operate. Guests might also notice some food stands closing earlier than park closing, due to staffing.”
Up to $11 per hour
To help reduce that staffing storage, the park recently announced it will raise its starting hourly wages for workers 18 years old and up from $9.50 to $10.50 per hour. Adults working rides will get the same $1 bump in starting pay to $11.
The starting wage for ages 16-17 jumped from $9 to $10 per hour and from $9.50 to $10.50 per hour for employees in that age group who work rides.
Returning employees over age 18 also will get $1-per-hour raises to $10.60, or $11.10 if they work rides.
Employees who are 14 or 15 years old will get 50-cent-per-hour raises to $7.75 for new hires and $8 for rehires.
Pennsylvania’s minimum wage is $7.25 per hour.
Asked whether higher employee wages will result in higher prices for rides and at food stands, Yutko had this to say, via email: “We don’t have a definite answer to that at the moment. We are constantly evaluating what changes are needed in order to sustain our business, whether this year or moving forward.”
Reasons for labor shortage
Knoebels is not unlike businesses across the country having trouble hiring, particularly in the service industry.
Bloomberg reported this week the United States recorded a record high with more than 9.2 million job openings in May.
Bloomsburg University economics professor Richard Paulsen cited three reasons for the shortage in the supply of workers:
• Parents looking to return to work after the pandemic are having trouble finding child care.
“The child care industry took a massive hit during the pandemic, with many workers no longer needing child care following job loss and with safety restrictions limiting capacity,” Paulsen explained.
• Service sector workers, among the most likely to contract COVID-19 during the pandemic, left their jobs over safety concerns and have not returned.
• The COVID-19 death toll of more than 600,000 has “surely had some impact on labor supply,” Paulsen noted.
Paulsen did not cite people choosing to rely on expanded unemployment benefits as a reason for the nationwide labor shortage. But frustrated business owners across the country certainly have blamed it.
The federal government has added $300 to weekly state unemployment checks since the American Rescue Plan passed in mid-March.
Pennsylvania will continue adding that $300 weekly federal bump to unemployment checks through the week ending Sept. 4, according to the state’s unemployment compensation website.
‘Fun work environment’
“It’s likely not one, single factor is contributing to our labor shortage,” Knoebels’ Yutko said.
She added just under 31% of Knoebels’ workforce is aged 14-19.
As for the crowds Knoebels is drawing, Yutko said the park doesn’t reveal daily attendance figures.
“Our park crowds have been much stronger than last season, but have not returned to [pre-pandemic] 2019 levels,” Yutko said.
Yutko added business at Knoebels’ campground has returned to pre-pandemic levels.
Knoebels has not had to take measures as drastic as other amusement parks, such as Dorney Park near Allentown.
Dorney announced in mid-June it was cutting operations from seven days a week to five and will be closed Mondays and Tuesdays for the rest of the summer because of a worker shortage.
Dorney also announced it had job openings paying $15 to $20 an hour.
“We offer a fun work environment with a flexible schedule and many extra team member perks,” Yutko said.
Knoebels employees are eligible to be entered into a drawing for the new Trailblazer upon working 250 hours this summer, or the equivalent of just over six, 40-hour weeks.
The Trailblazer drawing is scheduled for Labor Day.
Employees also are eligible for more than $5,000 in gift cards during that drawing.
Knoebels also offers workers free entry to other parks, free ride tickets and food coupons during certain weeks and 25% discounts on rides and food otherwise.