Kilwins in Lake Geneva. Image via Google maps

LAKE GENEVA — Kilwins Chocolates, the popular candy and ice cream store in downtown Lake Geneva, is temporarily closed citing “staffing issues.”

In a post Aug. 20, 2021 on its front door and on its Facebook page, Kilwins writes, “Due to staffing issues we have to close until further notice. We’ll be posting updated hours as soon as we are able.

Kilwins isn’t alone in having difficulty finding employees as the nation slowly comes out of the pandemic.

The problem has been even more acute in tourist areas like Walworth County and Door County, which rely more heavily on lower wage, seasonal employees.

Many students that staff these businesses during the summer are now returning to school.

The challenge of finding enough workers in Walworth County dates back long before the pandemic.

As far back as 2019, a Wisconsin Policy Forum report showed Walworth County had been losing working age residents since 2011.

The drop of 2.6 percent was the largest of any county in southeast Wisconsin.

A little under two-thirds of employed residents work in the county, according to a 2019 Walworth County workforce profile.

The remaining residents pursue work opportunities outside of the county. As a point of reference, 71.8% of employed Wisconsin residents work in their home county.

Although for those who had worked in lower wage jobs, the $300-a-week federal unemployment benefit means they can receive more income from unemployment aid than from their former jobs.

But that’s not the primary factor driving the shortage, experts say.

Lack of child care and concerns over the ongoing pandemic are most often cited as reasons why some are slow to return to the workforce.

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By Dan Plutchak

Dan Plutchak launched Walworth County Community News in 2021. He is the former editor of The Week and Walworth County Sunday.