By Mary Angell, Cowboy State Daily
Wyoming’s unemployment rate is a good indicator of a healthy economy: people are working and therefore able to buy homes, cars — and Christmas and Hanukkah gifts.
But according to state officials, the current unemployment rate of 3.8 percent means that employers looking to hire extra help during the holiday season may have a tough time of it. The low unemployment rate is a curse to employers, Denise Rodriguez, business representative in the Department of Workforce Services, told Cowboy State Daily.
“It’s a job-seeker’s market instead of an employer’s market right now,” she said,“(It) makes hiring overall very difficult for employers to find individuals seeking employment.”
According to Chris Brown, the executive director of the Wyoming Lodging and Restaurant Association and the Wyoming Retail Association, finding seasonal help is incredibly difficult for businesses.
“If you were to go round on the horn and ask (members of the WLRA and WRA) what the biggest challenge is for them, nine out of ten — without a doubt — would say finding an adequate work force,” he said.
And it’s not just a seasonal problem, he said.
“The problem is that in Wyoming there are not enough employees available,” he said. “It’s the least populated state in the country, so it has the least populated workforce in the country.”
Brown and DWS representatives have some advice for employers hoping to score some good workers to help with the holiday rush.
Offer competitive pay
“The more competitive pay the better,” suggested Jeff Schulz, a manager for the DWS Workforce Service Centers. “If a company is paying $12 an hour, for example, if you can pay $13 an hour, you can get them (to leave their current employer).”
According to Rodriguez, employers regularly resort to poaching staff from other employers.
“I had a 21-year-old tell me yesterday, ‘I’m thinking about looking for another job that pays more,’” Rodriguez said. “I said, ‘Don’t you think about burning bridges?’ He said, ‘I think I’ll look at getting more money.’
“(Job-seekers) can go back and forth,” she continued. “If they leave an employer and things don’t work out at the other job, they can go back and they’ll take them back. Chances are the position still needs to be filled.”
Provide flexible hours
A lot of people looking for seasonal work already have full-time jobs, and they’re looking for a job where they can work evenings and weekends, said Ty Stockton, DWS communications manager.
Others are students who want to make some extra money over the holidays, Brown said.
“In both the retail and hospitality industries, flexible schedules, being able to work with students and their school schedules, give them part-time hours — employers tout those things to supplement their work force,” he said. “They need to offer (applicants) a great place to work, have fun and make money.”
DWS Business Representative Terri Wells suggested that in addition to competitive salaries and flexible hours, employers be creative in their approach to attracting workers.
“Think outside of the box,” she said. “What can you offer as an add-on?”
“A lot of companies offer retention bonuses, so if you stay six months or so they give you a bonus,” Shulz said. “There are a variety of ways you can approach it, but the key is to make the employee as happy as they can be.”
Try a “surgical approach”
Shulz likened participating in a job fair to select the right candidate for the job to conducting precise surgery.
“We do a mini-job fair every month,” he said.
The DWS job fairs are geared specifically for particular industries. Employers who take part have an opportunity to grab the job-seekers most attracted and best suited for that industry.
Check out the DWS website
Workforce Services’ website, wyomingatwork.com, is designed to help not only job-seekers, but employers as well. They can search the system for resumes that match the kind of applicant they’re looking for and send a message to the job seeker.
Consult a local Workforce Services Center
Employers who need more help finding seasonal workers can call or visit their local DWS center. There are 22 centers throughout the state.
“If any employers are having difficulty filling or retaining positions and are looking for ideas, they can contact one of the local DWS centers,” Rodriguez said.