Help wanted: Good help hard to find

Bulletin photo by Floyd Whiting

As he prepares for his busy summer season, Erick Loden, owner and operator of Loden Construction, has found it difficult to find reliable employees as Johnson County unemployment drops.  

While the number of people entering the workforce in Johnson County is growing year over year, declining unemployment in the county means most people who want jobs, have jobs.

Johnson County’s workforce grew by 126 people from April 2018 to April 2019, according to a the most recent report by the Wyoming Department of Workforce Services Research and Development Division. At the same time, unemployment in the county is down by from 4.2% in April 2018 to 3.5% in April 2019, meaning 149 more people are employed in the county this year versus last. The news is good for job seekers but means that finding workers is proving difficult for employers.

The labor force – a count of those employed and seeking employment – was reported to be 4,108 in April 2019, with 3,965 of those employed, leaving very few unemployed workers to fill any seasonal positions.

Finding help for the upcoming summer season has proven difficult, whether the applicant is qualified or not.  

“We are having some extreme trouble hiring,” said Erick Loden, owner and operator of Loden Construction. “Qualified went out the door a long time ago. We’re not even finding warm bodies. If they can show up on time and pass a drug screening, I’ll give them a shot.”

The company primarily deals in roofing construction, and although he is bidding new jobs, Loden said he has had to turn profitable jobs away because his workforce is stretched thin.

“Right now, today, I have four people working and I could easily keep 12 busy,” Loden said. “I’ve turned down more work this spring than what we’ve taken on, and the only thing holding us back is staffing.”

Finding help for entry-level positions has also proven difficult, according to Ann Reiner, Buffalo Pizza Hut’s general manager.

“It’s been horrible,” Reiner said. “Just like Hardees, Subway or Taco Johns; I was just talking with them. Nobody has enough help.”

Last year at this time, Reiner had applications to go through, interviews to conduct and new employees to train. This year, after hiring two employees who only wished to be part-time, (one only wanting to wash dishes), she’s already exhausted all the applications that have come in, she said.

“We’ll take anything,” Reiner said. “We’ll take full time and part time. We can use waitresses, drivers and cooks.”

DJ’s Thriftway is experiencing the same difficulties as it faces a busy summer season, according to manager Tom Vigil.

“We’re having a hard time getting qualified people.” Vigil said. “I’m getting applications from people that we’ve already talked to who didn’t fit in to our business model. We’re not getting many applications.”

Vigil said he foresees having to post a Help Wanted sign in the DJ’s window for most of the summer.

“We’ll keep trying to find people and keep taking applications and visiting with people. Amazingly enough, there’s a decent one out there once in a while who needs a switch (in work),” Vigil said.  

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