By Kevin Killough, energy reporter
Randy Cooke, owner of Aamco Transmissions Total Car Care in Cheyenne, has been spending a lot of time this year trying to fill positions. He uses job sites such as Indeed.com and Zip Recruiter. He said the pay is competitive at his locally-owned small business, but the response to the job postings in the past year have been dismal.
“We really don’t get any applications,” Cooke said.
That all changed recently when he advertised for a service writer position, which has the opportunity to move up to a store manager position. He said he got 33 applications. Of those applicants, he scheduled about 15 for interviews.
“We call them and say, yep, come in and on such and such date for an interview. Out of those we called, not even half — I’d say only a third of them — showed up,” Cooke said.
He said he quickly offered the job to one of those who showed up to the interview.
“I didn’t want to take a chance of them going somewhere else to get a job,” Cooke said.
The applicant wanted a week to think about it. So, Cooke continued interviewing just to be on the safe side. But then the original applicant Cooke offered the job to accepted it.
The new hire said he needed two weeks to give his current employer notice. Cooke continued to communicate with him occasionally in the days leading up to the new hire’s start date.
“And then Monday morning rolls around, and guess what. No show,” Cooke said.
They call them ghost candidates, and according to surveys by Indeed.com, it’s a rising trend. From 2019 to 2020, the number of job seekers who say they’ve ghosted employers rose from 18% to 28%.
The main reasons these ghost applicants gave for vanishing was the position didn’t offer enough money, they decided it wasn’t the right job, or they found a better one.
The surveys didn’t ask why these applicants felt no sense of professional courtesy to inform the employers of the change in mind.
When Cooke’s new employee didn’t show, he had to start the whole process over again, beginning with paying for more ads. Then, a week or two is spent reviewing applications. Then another week of interviews, and then a couple weeks waiting for the winning candidate to — hopefully — start.
Meanwhile, the position goes unfilled, and the small business owner struggles to serve customers.
Dale Steenbergen, president and CEO of the Greater Cheyenne Chamber of Commerce, said this phenomenon of people accepting positions they don’t show up for is a common topic in chambers of commerce across the country. He said, while it’s not as “gruesome” of a problem in Cheyenne as it is elsewhere, he has had a couple chamber members say they’ve seen the problem.
“Workforce is such an issue right now that any exacerbating problem is really significant,” Steenbergen said.
Employers, Steenbergen said, are doing all they can to try to fill positions, including raising pay and improving benefits. Some are offering stipends for childcare. There’s only so far they can raise their labor costs, so businesses are looking at other options that don’t cost more money.
Some employers are trying to attract young workers with flexible work schedules, and where possible, work from home options.
“There’s a lot of ingenuity being put into the process, but it’s still a struggle,” Steenbergen said.
Too Much Stimulus
In July, the latest month for which there’s data, Wyoming saw its unemployment rate fall to 3%. It was one of the lowest rates since the pandemic and beat the national rate of 3.5%.
The lowest rate in the state was in Teton County, with an unemployment rate of 1.7% in July, and the highest was in Sweetwater County at 3.9%.
With people finding work, the pool of available employees is shrinking, which is one factor contributing to the struggle Wyoming businesses have hiring people.
David Bullard, senior economist with the Wyoming Department of Labor, said many people during the pandemic simply dropped out of the workplace. There’s a variety of reasons why, including early retirement and illness.
Some people might just choose not to work. The federal government sent out a lot of stimulus money during the pandemic, Ballard said. That’s not only driven up demand for goods and services as individuals and businesses spend the money, but it’s given people resources to remain unemployed in some cases.
“Everyone’s situation is different, but the stimulus money was a whole lot of money over a number of bills that were passed,” Ballard said.
Economists expect those resources are starting to run out, and some U.S. Department of Labor data for August, Ballard said, is indicating that people are coming back into the workforce.
Release of the August unemployment figures is planned for on Monday, Sept. 19.