Unemployment concerns rise in Atlantic City for casino workers

ATLANTIC CITY, New Jersey (WPVI) -- It's no surprise that Atlantic City is suffering. The city relies on tourists, the hospitality, and casino industries which have both taken a huge hit under the pandemic.

There are turbulent waters where unemployment is concerned in Atlantic City. "With what's going on, we're all just so worried and scared," said Victoria Hillesheim of Northfield New Jersey.

Data from the U.S. Department of Labor show unemployment in Atlantic City is at 24 percent.

The data also shows the astronomical difference in Atlantic City's unemployment rate, compared to the state which is at 13.8 percent.

As well as the country, where Atlantic City was two times higher than the national average in July at 10.2 percent.

There are people behind these numbers, like Hillesheim who is anxious to one day go back to work as a food server at a local casino.

"We think it's going to be tomorrow, we think it's going to be next week, and the day just never comes," said Hillesheim. "And it was like Christmas when Murphy announced indoor dining."
But even with indoor dining set to open Friday, It's only at 25 percent capacity.

So, like many other casino workers, Victoria still won't have a job.

"We will have about 7,000 of our 10,000 members back to work but that still leaves 3,000 workers without a job," said Donna Decaprio, financial secretary-treasurer for Unite Here Local.

To help unemployed hospitality and casino workers, a food drive was held at Baeder Field in collaboration from multiple agencies, who have raised money to help 1800 struggling families.

But even Thursday, the gates were closed early once they ran out of food.

Maura Shenker, director of small business development at Temple University says the 24 percent unemployment number worries her in the long term.

"No one can sustain these numbers long term, and until there's a vaccine there's very little hope of returning to pre-pandemic levels," said Shenker.

She mentions that even when people get their jobs back, the majority of them will be in debt. So before the economy is stimulated, people will be focusing on catching up on bills before going on vacation or spending money for a fun night out at a casino.
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