Why are there so many “Now Hiring” Signs in Yorba Linda?



An image of a standard California Unemployment Benefits Application. Four in every fifty Californians have filled out this form in the past year.

Madison Austin, Photojournalist

I have lived in the Land of Gracious Living my entire life. From the moment I opened my eyes, Yorba Linda was what I saw and what I knew. As time passed on and the city steadily grew, its businesses grew too. I witnessed a small-town commercial revolution in Yorba Linda. From the addition of a Town Center to the destruction of the open field on Yorba Linda Blvd, business in Yorba Linda has always been flourishing, busy, and diverse. That was all changed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

I began to notice these differences in May of 2021. During a 4 mile drive down Yorba Linda Blvd, I counted 34 “Now Hiring” signs. Just 4 miles of half-commercial, half-residential streets were able to supply 34 establishments in need of staff. I wondered why that was the case. Never in my life had I seen so many “Now Hiring” signs, and I knew there had to be a reason for such a rare occurrence. I clocked it to a pre-summer/post COVID employment halt, and I figured that it would naturally fizzle out by the time summer commenced. 

For a few months, it seemed to get better. As more and more establishments began reopening to almost pre-COVID-like conditions, businesses in Yorba Linda seemed to be returning to their original greatness. Maybe the conditions improved, or perhaps, I grew oblivious to them, but last Saturday, the effects of this severe unemployment appeared front and center in my life.

After a pleasant afternoon in the park, my family and I drove to Chili’s, the classic American eatery, for an early weekend dinner. The Chili’s on Yorba Linda Blvd and Imperial Highway is a hallmark of the Yorba Linda experience. Between late-night Chocolate Lava Cakes and family dinners after baseball games, Chili’s has been a popular restaurant in my life, and the lives of so many other Yorva Lindians.

Much to my surprise, however, my family was unable to eat at Chili’s on that memorable Saturday afternoon. Upon arriving at Chili’s, there was a paper sign taped to the door. A vibrant yellow paper with dark black ink read: “We cannot seat any more parties due to our current staffing deficiency. We are sorry for the inconvenience.” 

The Chili’s incident was a bit of a bummer, but it is a mere representation of the broader issue at hand. Why was Chili’s, a restaurant that has perfectly functioned for the past decade, suddenly understaffed? In a post-COVID era, where most Californians, and Yorba Lindians for that matter, can safely be in public, why has the staffing shortage continued?

As Roxanne Bland wisely stated, in order to find the truth, we need to “follow the money,” and boy, oh boy, does the money lead us in some intriguing directions.  According to the Educational Development Department of California, the unemployment rate in California is just north of 7.5%, almost double its scale before the start of the pandemic. If there are more employment opportunities than before the pandemic, and fewer Californians employed than ever, something isn’t right. One key component adds a shocking twist to the equation: the California Unemployment Payrolls.

Californians who are currently unemployed can earn up to $450 a week, in unemployment. In a year, that amounts up to $23,400 (edd.ca.gov). A Californian working a full-time minimum wage job earns $520 per week, amounting to a $27,040 annual salary. It’s almost more beneficial to earn unemployment than to work a minimum wage job. While the unemployment rates are shockingly skyrocketing, they’re somewhat understandable. Why would someone want to work a 40 hour week in a minimum wage job when they can earn just about the same amount of money staying at home?

On the bright side, it’s never been a better time to be a 16-year-old job applicant.  With so many “Now Hiring” and “Seeking Help” signs throughout Yorba Linda, employers who would usually seek an older demographic are now leaning towards younger job candidates. Laila Collie (11), a junior at Yorba Linda High School is eager to soak up this new opportunity. “I am so excited to get a job in Yorba Linda” she stated. Her main excitement lies in the diversity of job opportunities, as she also said that “There are like there are a million places that I could apply to right now.”