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Rendering of an Electric Pickle location. (Electric Pickle)

Pickleball, the tennis-like sport that has sparked the attention of 4.2 million U.S. players, is expanding its Austin reach with three new restaurants themed around the rapidly growing sport in the works.

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"Now hiring" signs have become ubiquitous across Austin storefronts as businesses contend with a worker shortage. (Emma Freer)

Austin is facing a worsening worker shortage that spans industries and could prove more economically damaging than the pandemic.

In April there were 1.5 unemployed Texas residents for each advertised vacancy, according to the Texas Workforce Commission. This shortage is not unique to Austin or Texas. Instead, it's a "national economic crisis that is getting steadily worse," according to a report released by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce this week. The lobbying group found that there are approximately half as many available workers for every open job as there have been on average over the last 20 years and the ratio continues to fall.

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(Bouldin Creek Cafe/Instagram)

For longtime residents, Austin's massive population boom is not new. Seeing small businesses close and big corporations move to Austin in droves was frightening for Leslie Martin, even 20 years ago.

Using a small amount of money she earned by selling antiques, Martin opened a café in the Summer of 2000, feeling that someone had to keep Austin local.

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Blended Culture, a South Austin food hall, is one of many local restaurants that are currently understaffed and in search of new hires. (Coffee + Crisp Cafe/Facebook)

After a year of pandemic operations, Doc's Backyard Grill owner Charles Milligan felt things were finally looking up. His Sunset Valley business had survived a temporary closure and transitioning to an online-order business model. By March the slow holiday season and the winter storm were behind him.

But the typically busy spring season hit a snag before it could even begin. Restaurant job applications tend to pick up around March, when outdoor dining is popular. Milligan and his managers reached out to each of the 93 applicants who came in through the jobs site Indeed; 10 responded to interview requests. Of those, three came in. They were good applicants, and Doc's hired them. When it came time for orientation, however, only one person showed up. "That's when we knew we were in trouble," he said.

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