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With 28,000 Job Openings And 9,000 Job Seekers, Help Wanted All Over Wyoming

in Jobs/News/wyoming economy

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By Renée Jean, Business and Tourism Reporter

Tim Giersch with Papa Johns in Cheyenne would hire a mix of 20 full- and part-time people today to work at both of the city’s pizza shop locations if he could. 

But like many other Wyoming businesses, a lack of available workforce has forced the stores to cut hours and close earlier, which at times can be an unwelcome surprise for customers.

“Our hours haven’t changed in probably over 20 years,” Giersch told Cowboy State Daily.

Red Hot Job Market

He believes the evolution of delivery services like DoorDash is one thing that’s cutting into his ability to hire. 

“A lot of people want to go with Uber or DoorDash where you don’t have to have a boss,” he said.

Another big factor at play is Wyoming’s red hot job market. The state’s job opening rate is 8.9%, the second highest in the nation, behind only Alaska.

That has many restaurants and retailers across the state cutting store hours, or in some cases giving up altogether on hiring now.

28,000 Job Openings

Kenny Lee with Cowtown Candy in Cody is in the latter boat. 

“We’re looking for somebody real specific,” Lee told Cowboy State Daily. “It’s difficult to find somebody in this particular labor market when you have restaurants that are closed sometimes two, maybe three days a week because they don’t have enough labor.”

Lee said in talking with others in Cody, he knows other types of businesses also are having problems, so he believes the labor shortage isn’t just impacting restaurants and retail.

In fact, the Cowboy State has 28,000 job openings now, according to the most recent Bureau of Labor statistics report, and just 9,000 job seekers. That 3-to-1 imbalance has in turn helped fuel an 11.2% rise in wages. 

While all of this makes good odds for job seekers hoping to trade up for better-paying employment, it’s also created hiring headaches for all kinds of managers, from candy shops and pizza joints to health care facilities. 

Growth in Leisure and Hospitality

The largest job growth sector in Wyoming has been leisure and hospitality, said Dave Bullard, senior economist for Wyoming Labor Market Information. The sector gained 2,400 jobs year over year, which works out to a 6.2% increase.

Mining, meanwhile, rose by 1,200 jobs, which is an 8% increase, and the health sector added 1,100 jobs, or 3.9%.

“I mean, the economy, Wyoming’s economy is growing, and we’re seeing new jobs in a lot of different sectors,” Bullard told Cowboy State Daily.

Wyoming’s most recent MACRO report, meanwhile, shows 7,400 jobs added back to the economy through August over 2021, a 2.7% increase overall. That brought the state’s total number of jobs to 286,000, which is still shy of pre-pandemic levels, when the state had 290,000 jobs. 

Cumulative Effect

Bullard thinks the current hiring crunch is caused by a variety of factors, not just one thing.

“First of all, the population is aging,” he said. “More people are moving into retirement age groups and just retiring.”

There’s also been frequent imbalances in supply and demand since the pandemic, as well as pandemic stimulus payments that he believes have affected decisions for people at the margins.

“To the extent that people have more money, they’re less willing to work on the margin, we say,” Bullard said. “So it probably didn’t affect their willingness or their desire to work, but some people on the margin, it did affect them.”

There also are those who became sick with long COVID or who died, or who simply worry about becoming sick and have decided not to return to work.

“Those don’t have to be huge numbers of people, but you know, little by little it affects things,” Bullard said.

Other people, meanwhile, have simply re-evaluated priorities — aka the Great Resignation — and decided to improve their work-life balance.

“The pandemic really changed things, and so people are making different choices,” Bullard said.

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“Ghost Hires” A Problem For Wyoming Employers

in News/wyoming economy

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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. 

Ghost Hiring

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. 

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Regional Small-Town Mom Ignores The Haters While Making Big Money On Adult Site “OnlyFans”

in News/Economy

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By Jennifer Kocher, Cowboy State Daily

Lisa Tooley had heard the stories of women making a lot of money online. 

The 44-year-old Nebraska mother of three saw a post on Pinterest in which a man had published photos of a Quonset hut and new Ford F-150. Money from his wife’s OnlyFans account bought those, he bragged, which convinced Tooley to look into it.

Her interest was driven more by desperation than anything else, Tooley told Cowboy State Daily by phone last week.

Tooley lives in Gering, a town of about 8,000 in the panhandle of Nebraska that has been hit hard by economic devastation. She had worked in the marketing department at Cabela’s before it was bought out by Bass Pro Shop in 2017. Despite Bass Pro Shop promising to keep existing employees, she was laid off after the purchase.

After that, she bought two liquor stores. But the buyout of Cabela’s meant many other people were laid off from the town’s biggest employer as well and they began to leave town to find jobs elsewhere. Then the coronavirus pandemic hit, further reducing business.

Trying to keep her staff paid during the economic downturn forced her to cash in some of her children’s savings, which was a low point for her. She knew she needed to do something different, so she sold the businesses.

Meanwhile, the family of six – including her boyfriend Brant and his 10-year-old son – survived on Brant’s salary at a local utility company. 

After looking into OnlyFans further and communicating with a content creator in California, Tooley thought she might be able to make some money by posting photos of herself to the site and ran the idea past Brant.

He was all in, she said. In fact, he thought it was a great idea.

Big Money to be Made

OnlyFans has been around since 2016, the brainchild of British entrepreneur Tim Stokely. His vision was to launch a site where creators could monetize their content free of advertisers, according to information on the site.

Unlike other social media networks like Instagram, YouTube and Facebook, which forbid explicit content and nudity, OnlyFans allows it. Users pay a monthly subscription fee of between $4.99 and $49.99 to get access to a creator’s page. Creators can also earn tips and income from paid messages.

OnlyFans boasts having the strongest engagement statistics on social media. To date, the site has paid out over $3 billion to creators and has more than 100 million registered users and more than 1 million creators worldwide.

The company takes 20% of every subscription and on average, content creators make around $180 per month, although earnings can near $100,000, according to quora.com.

Although OnlyFans does track the number of its users and their geographic locations, the company declined to say how many creators live in Wyoming and how much money they make per year.

“The brand does not release or share this type of data,” Taylor Osumi, vice president of Autumn Communications, said in an email.

Acceptable Uses

Creators can do anything on their sites, from offering health tips and posing partially or fully nude to performing sex acts, although strict rules forbid anyone under the age of 18 from posting or accessing the site. The company also has policies forbidding human trafficking and modern slavery.

According to OnlyFans policies, creators are forbidden from showing or promoting items and actions including firearms, drugs, suicide or self-harm, necrophilia, bestiality, revenge porn, sex trafficking or prostitution. Adherence to the rules is monitored by a third-party oversight provider.

The company has twice banned pornography on its site, in 2019 and 2021, due to pressure from the banking industry, but in each case, the ban was rescinded a short time later.

Tooley does not post sexually explicit content or full nudes. She refers to her posts as “spicier” content where she models lingerie and does the occasional topless shot. 

Mostly, she said, it’s flirtatious stuff with an emphasis on “being real” and sharing snippets of her life such as going to the gym and her children’s ball games.

Earning A Great Living

Tooley started her page in March 2021 and said it was slow going at first. On average, she was making around $200 to $300 a month, but then she started doing research into how to grow her fan base.

She reached out to a successful content creator in California who suggested she use other social media platforms to draw people to her page. Because OnlyFans does no advertising, content creators are left to do this on their own.

At some point she said she was contacted by a man who described himself as an “agent,” but decided not to work with him because he seemed “scammy” and wanted to make her took “trashy.” One bit of advice she did take, however, was to get on TikTok with a video.

It worked.

It was that TikTok video that changed everything for her. In the video, she appeared in a tank top, explaining the number one reason that MILFs, an acronym for hot moms, “do it better” is because they offer cookies in bed.

It absolutely blew up, Tooley said, garnering nearly 2 million views and drawing 80,000 subscribers to her site at a monthly charge of $12.99.

After this video, Tooley was making thousands of dollars every month and now wants to grow that figure to upwards of $100,000.

Keeping it Real

The success she has enjoyed and money she’s been able to make have astounded both Tooley and her partner.

“It’s totally insane,” she said.

Her fans are mostly men from the United States, though she does have “a good handful” of female fans as well as several men living outside the country, predominantly in Australia, Turkey and Wales.

The key was branding herself in a way that made her real to her viewers she said. 

She doesn’t pile on the makeup but instead comes across like a “Midwest Mom,” which is the creator name she uses for her page. Her subscribers seem to like her down-to-earth looks and approach and she said that some of her most popular videos were of her saying good morning to her fans as she headed off to the gym in her workout clothes and no makeup.

“They want to see a real person, not a made-up doll with filters,” she said.

The key is to post frequently and always remember that the job is to be an entertainer who doesn’t have to look perfect, she said. Mostly, she’s been amazed at the number of people who seem genuinely lonely and who pay extra just to talk to her on the phone about real life while asking her questions about herself.

Right now, she admitted she’s “pretty lazy” when it comes to posting and growing her page and estimates she only puts in about an hour a day, which she plans to amp up in the fall when her kids go back to school.

The Haters

Not all people have been complimentary to Tooley, both online and in person. Online, some people have commented on her social media posts that she’s too old and they’d never pay to see her.

Other moms in Tooley’s small town have waged a smear campaign, accusing her of being a terrible mother, though nobody has said so directly to her face. Instead, there are a lot of whispers and finger pointing, she said.

“A lot of these women are jealous,” Tooley said, noting that she puts in a lot of time at the gym and works hard to keep up her appearance.

Some have also gone after her on social media to campaign for the removal of her videos from TikTok and to besmirch her, she said.

As for her mothering skills, Tooley argued that this job allows her more time to be with her children and support their interests, such as traveling with her 10-year-old twins for their baseball games.

Her children know about her OnlyFans page and joke about how their friends call her a “hot mom.”

Her children are totally fine with it, she said, and reiterated that not only does it allow her to provide for her family but also allows her to spend more time with them and be a better mom. This is why she’s doing it, she said. It allows her to devote herself more to her children while also helping the family pay their bills.

For her, it’s also helped her work through her own body image issues and insecurities, she said. 

Posing for online photographs was awkward for Tooley at first, but she found it eventually empowering when she realized that she didn’t have to be perfect. In fact, the less perfect she is, the more her fans seem to respond to that realness.

She’s not selfish or conceited as her critics attest, but said she’s actually a really humble person who goes out of her way to help neighbors.

She urged those who choose to become content creators to really think it over first to decide if it’s the right thing for them, because once images begin appearing, they remain online forever.

“There is no turning back,” she said. “Once it’s out there, it’s there for life.”

At the same time, she’s happy with her decision and plans to do it for another two to five years, when she might be able to retire, assuming her brand continues to grow.

In the meantime, she said she’s not getting bogged down by the haters because they are a minority and more people in her hometown of Gering and elsewhere have been incredibly supportive.

“Worldwide people are not judging me,” she said. “It’s the 10% (judging me) who are the loudest.”

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Report: Wyoming Lost 16K Jobs Over One-Year Period

in News/wyoming economy

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming lost more than 16,000 jobs in 2020, according to a new state Department of Workforce Services report, due largely to the coronavirus pandemic.

The department’s quarterly report on the state’s economic indicators showed that from the fourth quarter of 2019 to the fourth quarter of 2020, Wyoming lost 16,273 jobs, a 5.9% loss, and total payroll fell by $58.4 million, a 1.6% loss.

The largest job losses occurred in mining, including oil and gas, which saw a decrease of 5,923 jobs, the leisure and and hospitality industry, which lost 3,159 jobs, and construction, which had a loss of 2,786 jobs.

Other losses were seen in local government employment, including public schools, colleges and hospitals, which saw a loss of 1,257 jobs, wholesale trade, where 1,036 jobs were lost, professional and business services, which saw a loss of 501 jobs, and manufacturing, which had a loss of 489 jobs.

However, the state’s retail trade employment rose by 627 jobs in the same period.

Job losses were seen in 17 of Wyoming’s 23 counties.

Natrona County lost 3,382 jobs (an 8.5% decrease) and its total payroll fell by $53.5 million, a 9.7% decrease, with the largest declines coming in mining, wholesale trade, construction, leisure and hospitality, manufacturing and other services.

Campbell County’s employment fell by 2,533 jobs, a 10% decrease, and its total payroll decreased by $54.6 million, a 13.5% decrease. Mining in the county lost more than 1,300 jobs and smaller job losses were seen in wholesale trade, local government, construction, professional and business services, transportation and warehousing and leisure and hospitality.

Converse County lost 2,015 jobs, a 26.1% decrease, and its total payroll fell by $39.4 million, a 32% decrease. The county’s construction sector accounted for approximately half of the job losses. County employment also fell in mining, professional and business services and transportation and warehousing.

Employment in Sweetwater County fell by 2,006 jobs, a 9.1% decline, and its total payroll decreased by $34.6 million or 10.2%. Sizeable job losses occurred in mining, construction, transportation & warehousing, local government, leisure & hospitality, and wholesale trade.

Laramie County lost 1,455 jobs, a 3.1% decrease, but its total payroll grew by $21.6 million, a 3.6% increase. Large job losses were seen in leisure & hospitality, mining (including oil & gas), local government, manufacturing, information, and construction.

Teton County’s employment fell by 1,034 jobs, a 5.2% decrease, but its total payroll increased by $79.7 million, or 27.7%. Its leisure & hospitality industry lost more than 900 jobs and retail trade lost more than 150 jobs. However, gains were seen in construction, financial activities and professional and business services.

Lincoln County added 103 jobs, a 1.6% increase, and its total payroll increased by $9.8 million, or 12%.

Job losses continued into the first quarter of 2021, according to preliminary data, as employment fell from the first quarter of 2020 by approximately 14,500 jobs, a 5.4% decrease, and total payroll fell by $197.6 million, a 5.9% decrease.

Large job losses were seen in mining, approximately 5,500 jobs, leisure and hospitality (approximately 2,800 jobs), construction (approximately 2,500 jobs), local government (including public schools, colleges, & hospitals; approximately 1,300 jobs), and wholesale trade (approximately 1,000 jobs).

However, continuing its trend from 2020, retail trade added more than 700 jobs.

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Wyoming Ranked 49th Worst States To Work In During Pandemic

in Unemployment/News/Coronavirus

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming has been ranked as one of the worst states to work in during the pandemic, according to a report by Oxfam America.

Wyoming ranked 49th of 52 states and territories (the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico were included in the report) in the analysis of Best States to Work In conducted by Oxfam, which describes itself as a “global organization working to end the injustice of poverty.”

Wyoming came in just below Mississippi, but higher than Georgia, Missouri and Alabama, respectively. Washington state, New Jersey and California took the three top spots in the ranking, respectively.

The nonprofit organization analyzed how the states stepped in to protect workers and provide them with access to health care and unemployment support during the period from Feb. 15 to July 1.

Wyoming ranked poorly in all three areas, according to the study.

In the area of protections for workers, which Oxfam said includes protections from being forced to return to work during the pandemic and providing child cared for essential workers, Wyoming scored 16.7 points out of a possible 100 for a 48th place ranking.

Oxfam ranked health care based on how well states stepped in to make sure their citizens had access to health care even if they lost their jobs during the pandemic.

Wyoming, with a score of 40, tied with five other states for 38th place nationally — Kansas, Nevada, Texas, Indiana and Pennsylvania.

For unemployment support, the analysis looked at whether states made it easier for those without jobs to obtain benefits and whether the states took steps to aid the unemployed such as imposing a moratorium on evictions or utility shutoffs.

Wyoming placed 45th nationally with a score of 24.7.

Researchers noted in the report that although the states fluctuate on their policies for unemployment, health care and worker protections, no state came close to having a perfect score.

“All the states — even those with the highest scores — have room for improvement,” the report said.

Oxfam’s recommendations at the end of the report included expanding Medicaid, increasing unemployment payments and improving worker protections.

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Wyoming’s Unemployment Decline A Promising Sign, Says State Agency

in Unemployment/News/Coronavirus

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming’s unemployment rate fell by more than 1 percentage point in June, indicating the state is recovering from the economic hardships created by the coronavirus, a state agency announced Tuesday.

The Research and Planning section of the state Department of Workforce Services said Wyoming’s unemployment rate in June was set at 7.6%, compared to 8.8% in May.

“This decrease in unemployment suggests that Wyoming’s economy continues to recover from the sharp contraction seen in April,” the section’s monthly report on unemployment said. “It appears that the lifting of some COVID-19 restrictions and the reopening of businesses have resulted in many individuals returning to work.”

The figures mean that in June, 22,832 of Wyoming’s workers were without jobs, a decline of 2,500 jobless from May figures. However, the number of unemployed in June was more than double the number seen in June of 2019.

Meanwhile, the number of workers with jobs grew by more than 11,000 during from May to total 278,504.The highest unemployment rate, 11%, was found in Natrona County, while Campbell County’s rate was 9.5% in June.

While the unemployment rate in June was lower than the national average of 11.2%, it was still a significant increase from 2019 figures, the report said.

“From June 2019 to June 2020, unemployment rates rose in every county,” it said.

Teton County’s unemployment rate more than quadrupled during the year, from 2.2% to 9.3%, while Natrona County’s almost tripled, from 4.1% in 2019 to 11% in June.

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Help Wanted: Low unemployment means hiring difficulties in Cheyenne

in News/Business

While Cheyenne’s low unemployment rate is good news for its economy, it means hard times for the city’s employers who are having trouble finding workers.

Cheyenne’s unemployment rate as of the end of April was 3.1 percent, compared to Wyoming’s statewide average of 3.6 percent.

“Help Wanted” signs can be found throughout Cheyenne, a sign of the resulting labor shortage that employers must face when trying to hire workers.

Businesses will have to be more creative than usual in luring staff members, said Stephanie Meisner, vice president of the Greater Cheyenne Chamber of Commerce.

“It causes us as employers, as well as businesses within the community, to have to think more creatively as to how to recruit, as well as retain employees and to be a little bit more competitive with one another in terms of workforce,” she said.

Astrid, the owner of the Plains Hotel, agreed the low unemployment rate makes hiring more difficult.

“It’s very severe for employers right now,” she said.

Katy Rinne, director of marketing and business development for one of Cheyenne’s newest restaurants, The Metropolitan, said her property is almost fully staffed. She attributed the achievement to the restaurant’s training for new workers.

“We’re happy to work with them, we’re happy to show them the way that we want to offer service and really train them to be great employees and to have a great work experience for them and for our customer,” she said.

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