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Employers adapt to a ‘workers’ labor market’ | Local company

Parkland’s unemployment rate looks much better – on paper – than last year’s numbers at this time, averaging 3.3% for counties in St. Francois County, Ste. Geneviève, Washington, Iron and Madison, according to May 2022 figures from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, the latest statistics available on the site.

The unemployment rate of 3.3% is also significantly better than the disastrous April 2020 numbers after the onset of the pandemic, when Parkland’s average unemployment rate soared to 10.2%. None of the numbers at the time came close to the biggest recession since the Depression, the housing and bank failures that in February 2010 led to an average of 15% unemployment for Parkland.

Still, many area employers are feeling the pressure to find quality employees who stay, according to a woman who regularly hosts hiring events in the area. She said it was unlike anything she had seen before.

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Debra Thompson is regional director of business services for the Workforce Development Board of Southeast Missouri. She said that while labor statistics look significantly more optimistic than they have for the past two years, what she sees in real life doesn’t necessarily match the numbers.

“I heard on the news that so many jobs have been created and you know everything is going back to normal,” she said. “Unfortunately, on the pitch, I don’t see that professionally or personally. Most employers still struggle to find employees. It’s a huge, huge problem. »

The reasons for the employee shortage are varied, Thompson said: Employees, in the shadow of a global pandemic, are reassessing how their work fits into their lives. Accurate unemployment figures can also be compromised if workers run out of unemployment benefits and fall on rolls. And there are other employment trends to consider.

“Baby boomers are retiring at a faster rate because of COVID. Then we have a lot of people, post-COVID, reassessing their situation – do they really want to go back to working in a fast food restaurant or a grocery store? said Thompson. “We’ve seen more and more people wanting to go back to continuing education to get into truck driving, and interest in information technology is growing.”

The shaded vertical column over halfway to the right of the chart indicates the massive unemployment trend that has occurred in Ste. Genevieve, Iron, Madison, Washington and St. Francois counties after the pandemic shutdowns began.

Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

Curiously or not, she says, certain fields have fallen out of favor among the unemployed seeking different, more lucrative occupations.

“The field of nursing has not been as popular for us. I used to send a lot of people to nursing school, but after COVID it doesn’t seem like it’s in high demand,” Thompson said.

The question of child care is added to the upheaval of employment.

“Many child care centers closed during the pandemic because everyone was working remotely and caring for their own children, or they were unemployed and couldn’t afford it,” she said. . “If you can’t find child care, you know, you’re kind of weighing your options. Many women in my neighborhood have also weighed the benefit of working remotely for less pay so they can raise their own children. That’s the kind of stuff I hear when I’m in the field…people are just starting to change their way of thinking.

Thompson said gas prices have also reflected for employees.

“A lot of people who live in rural areas don’t want to drive to St. Louis and spend $45 a day on gas. So there are plenty of remote positions you could fill that cost less per hour, but you don’t have to commute and worry about childcare. I kind of see more of that,” Thompson said.

On the employers’ side, she says, “they call me all the time, email me all the time, and they’re still desperately looking for people to hire. Lots of vacancies, you have people working longer now. A restaurant, they don’t even serve food on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday because they don’t have staff to work in the kitchen.

Candy Hente, executive director of the Farmington Regional Chamber of Commerce, said chamber members used to be primarily interested in networking and opportunities to market their businesses, “but that quickly shifted to the looking for good employees”.

“In January, we actually did a workforce presentation at our lunch, where you had a panel of HR professionals, including one of the staffing companies that’s here,” Hente said. . “We extended the lunch time because there was a lot of discussion, a lot of interest, a lot of feedback from attendees, with many saying they had to change a lot of their recruiting techniques – being faster to interview and faster to get people jobs. You know, make that application process faster.

Hente said the chamber plans to dive into customer service training for employers, having previously created locally made videos featuring area employers talking about what they need in an employee.

“Having a skilled workforce is something that of course concerns us, and MAC and UniTec offering many of the courses they have, where people can learn skills beyond entry-level work. entry, is a huge step in the right direction,” she said.

Thompson said for the most part it’s a worker’s labor market. She said she spoke to a colleague who spoke to students who told her they were working smarter, not harder.

“I’m older, 51, but I went to work at 16 and worked in fast food because that’s what it was,” Thompson said. “This guy said, while he was meeting with some of his students, one of them was like, ‘Oh, I’ll be back in an hour.’ He ran and made a very quick delivery and made $65 in less than an hour. He had another student, said ‘I’ll be back in a few moments.’ He ran and got someone, you know, an Uber driver, and he came back and he let you know it was between $45 and $50. We just have to accept that the world is changing.

And some employers are more adaptable to change, while others just aren’t, Thompson said. She referenced a company in Warrensburg that had 12-hour shifts, “you know, those nice rotating 12-hour shifts that nobody really wants to do,” she said. “You just did 12 hour shifts for two weeks and then you have to change again and readjust to different 12 hours – those days may be over.”

Thompson said the Warrensburg company couldn’t fill 12-hour shifts, so during the worst part of COVID, they moved to four-hour shifts.

“They raised the starting wage to $22 an hour, for four-hour shifts for a stay-at-home mom who just wants to earn extra money for Christmas or have her own pocket money,” a Thompson said. “She can leave after the kids are on the bus, work four hours and still be home before they get off the bus, do housework and still earn $88 and have money in her pocket. It is enormous. It is enormous.

“I spoke to an employer about it. He’s laughing. He said it would never work. Well, it worked and it’s been very successful for a year now for them. Because you also have Bob, who retired because he could retire, because of COVID, but he’s 68. And now he’s bored because he completed all his house plans in a year. Now he can come in, get out of the house, keep that utility, and work a four-hour shift.

Thompson said business owners and companies have demanded flexibility and sacrifice from employees for decades, “and to me, these companies are going to have to consider changing the way they treat their employees. Rate wages, and maybe there’s an employer who can’t pay a lot, but there are other things you can do.

“I had an employer, they bring in food trucks a few days a week and they let the employees go and they cover the full cost of lunch. Wow. That’s a perk that makes the employee feel like ‘It’s part of the And so these are things that employers are going to have to do by thinking outside the box.

Sarah Haas is deputy editor of the Daily Journal. She can be reached at 573-518-3617 or

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