Wyoming Employment Officials Don’t Understand Why Or How Workers Aren’t Working

Wyoming employment officials are baffled at the lack of active searches for employment.

Wendy Corr

August 10, 20213 min read

Closed sign
(Cowboy State Daily Staff)

The signs are everywhere in restaurants and hotels — “Help Wanted.”

Despite the fact people are not turning out to fill these empty hospitality industry spots, people seem busy and are still spending money.

The shift away from the industry is a bit of a mystery for many labor force experts around the state.

“This is not an inexpensive place to live, in my opinion — so how are they paying their bills?” asked Donna Lester with the Wyoming Workforce Services office in Cody. “And buying groceries and buying gas and feeding their animals and all that?”

Lester and her colleagues across the state are puzzled by the lack of active searches for employment.

“If someone does come in, and says ‘I’m looking for a job,’ we tell them, you can go to Wendy’s and make $15 bucks an hour right now; you can go to Walmart and make $18.50,” she said. “We have a list of places that are desperate for help.”

But the workers aren’t showing up to fill the spots.

Last month, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics released new data which illustrates how the workforce has already started to shift. Nationally, the number of workers quitting their jobs reached an all-time high of 2.7%, while layoffs and “discharges” reached an all-time low of 1%. 

But the gap between the number of job openings and the number of unemployed workers is narrowing, according to the report. Currently, there are only 562,000 more unemployed workers than open jobs.

Ty Stockton, with the Workforce Service Office in Cheyenne, said there isn’t really a way to find out why people are not going back to work, since his office only sees people who are actively looking for employment.

“We have had folks say they want to get back to work, but they’re having trouble with childcare or they’re taking care of somebody who has pre-existing conditions, so there’s a little more danger with what’s going around,” Stockton said. 

He added, however, that there are some clues that the mindset of people who have traditionally worked in the hospitality industry have shifted.

“We have had quite a few people enroll in CDL training,” he said. “Truck drivers are in huge demand right now. We’ve seen the signs around that some of those places are offering really good salaries for folks just straight out of truck driving school.”

Stockton also pointed out there has been an increase in the number of people enrolling in classes to become certified nursing assistants or for other jobs in the medical field.

“There are a lot of short term certificates that somebody can finish in just a few months, then they can get right to work,” he said. “Other people are opting to go for degrees, which might take a little longer, but they’ll have more options when they get out.”

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Wendy Corr

Features Reporter