One McDonald's Is Offering New Employees A Free iPhone. This May Be Why

Signs of a labor shortage are popping up — literally — at America's fast food restaurants. First, there was the viral TikTok video from April showing a sign posted at a McDonald's drive-thru: "We are short staffed. Please be patient with the staff that did show up. No one wants to work anymore." Just a little later in April, someone tweeted a photo of a readerboard sign outside a Tampa, Florida, McDonald's that said, "Get $50 for interview." The multiple-franchise owner told Business Insider he was willing to pay people for job interviews, if it keeps the busy lines at the drive-thrus moving.

If $50 isn't enough, then a McDonald's at an undisclosed location has upped the ante even more. A Twitter user posted a photo on May 22 of a sign in a McDonald's window promising a free iPhone to new hires who stay on the job for six months and meet unspecified employment criteria. While the Twitter post attracted a lot of humorous responses along the lines of, "Criteria: unrealistic. iPhone: 5s," the sign strongly suggests that some McDonald's restaurants are getting desperate. Fox Business reported on the tweet showing the "free iPhone" McDonald's sign but couldn't confirm the offer was legitimate.

Enhanced unemployment benefits may be why McDonald's is having trouble finding workers

McDonald's isn't the only company unable to fill all of its open positions. A number of low-wage retail and restaurant businesses are increasing their pay in an effort to attract workers, according to the Associated Press. That includes McDonald's, Sheetz, Chipotle, and Walmart. Businesses are trying to add workers as communities ease COVID-19 restrictions. "Customers are coming back faster than restaurants can staff up," Josh Bivens of the Economic Policy Institute told the Associated Press.

Blake Casper, the McDonald's franchisee who was paying people $50 to sit down for a job interview, told Business Insider the extra money people are getting with their unemployment benefits — part of a federal COVID-19 relief plan — is convincing people to stay home rather than find a job. Casper said he might raise the wages at his McDonald's, too. "How do you blame somebody?" he said. "You can make more money on unemployment — and so, we've got to be at least above that."

A column in The Washington Post said it remains an open question whether enhanced unemployment is keeping people out of the workforce. We should have an answer soon, though. Several Republican-led states are ending the enhanced benefit in the next couple months.