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Visitors Return To Theme Parks By The Thousands, But Finding Good Help Is Hard

ROCHESTER, NY (WXXI) - Workers have tons of choices when it comes to employment right now, particularly in the leisure and hospitality sector.

New York state Department of Labor data released Thursday showed the number of jobs in those industries is up 46% since last year, likely because of the season and pandemic protocols are easing.

One of the most common seasonal opportunities for work is at amusement parks like Roseland Water Park in Canandaigua or Irondequoit’s Sea Breeze.

Roseland owner Dan Fuller said reopening earlier this month was a thrill.

“This year, starting Roseland again was like opening a brand-new business because we've been closed for the past 22 months,” said Fuller, whose family also runs Bristol Mountain Ski Resort.

He said they were prepared to open last summer, but a last-minute change in state COVID-19 protocols nixed that. This year, many of those protocols are gone, and crowds are back with thousands visiting on some days.

But seasonal employees have been harder to come by.

Fuller said they kept their Adventure River closed for the first few weeks of the season because of a lack of lifeguards.

This week, Fuller’s fortunes changed. With enough new hires, a class of lifeguards is being trained to help get the park through the season.

“We are still recruiting, and we will continue to recruit until we've got a few more that we would need as we go into later August and September because many of the lifeguards will go back to school,” said Fuller.

At Sea Breeze, owner Rob Norris is facing a similar phenomenon. He said business is strong, with visitors returning in droves, but hiring is tougher than usual.

“The market certainly is much tighter than it has been in the past,” Norris said. “There's no doubt about it.”

In a typical year, Norris said, about half of their employees are returning high school or college students. On average, they hire about 400 new employees, but this year, there isn’t as much competition.

“There used to be four-to-one applicants to positions, and there’s just not as many applicants anymore,” said Norris.

Norris said their staffing is in good shape, but unlike most years, they’re still hiring.