Local businesses struggle to find workers
Restaurants and other businesses close early on certain days.
Other businesses need to limit the number of clients they can serve in a certain period of time.
Manufacturers are throwing in wide nets to try and recruit people to fill positions in their factories to ensure that they complete jobs on time that their customers want.
The Jackson Chamber and elected officials are posting on social media to let people know about job openings and their abundance right now.
But there is a problem.
“It seems like no one wants to show up for work,” said Tim Armstrong, owner of Reliable Lawncare and Landscaping. “Or not many of us at least.”
Positions open almost everywhere
There is a shortage of available workers in the area which has affected various businesses including Reliable, Jackson Pride Commercial and Residential Cleaning, and restaurants like Old Country Store. And executives from all three companies are among those worried about what will happen in the short and long term for the economy with so many people not working.
Diana Cotten first opened Jackson Pride in 2015 and slowly grew her business until it employed 23 people in February. Since then that number has dropped to 16 with typically around three workers calling on most days for various reasons.
“We try to work with our employees because many of them are mothers who have to deal with doctor visits or dental appointments or take care of sick children at different times, but this does not happen. That’s not the problem, ”Cotton said. “The problem is, I’m trying to fill seven positions and I can’t because I can’t get a lot of applications, and the ones I get may or may not come for an interview.”
Armstrong has similar experiences where Reliable has a staff of six right now while normally operating with 16 employees if they are full.
“It started around the middle of last year when it became difficult for the first time to hire people or keep the ones we had hired,” Armstrong said. “I think we had about 27 or 28 people working here at some point last year based on the number of W2 forms I sent out at the start of this year.”
Thomas Media hosted its annual career fair last week at the Carl Perkins Civic Center, and the event that would typically attract over 1,000 job seekers to speak to the 60 establishments looking for workers had around 250 this year.
Gerdau was one of the companies represented at the event, and they face the same issues as Reliable and Jackson Pride.
“Despite competitive salaries, award-winning benefits and career development opportunities, Gerdau is struggling to find quality candidates for our vacancies,” said Jennifer Alexander, Director of Human Resources at Gerdau. “We are taking many steps to address this challenge, including engaging with our community partners, evaluating our hiring practices and incentives, and raising awareness of the exceptional opportunities that exist with Gerdau. “
But whether it’s steelmaking like Gerdau, service industries like landscaping or cleaning services or the restaurant industry, potential workers don’t show up.
Old Country Store will employ between 85 and 90 workers when full. They have moved closer to 75 for most of 2021 so far.
“I like to think of ourselves as a good company to work for with competitive salaries and we take care of our people with advancement opportunities and other incentives,” said Brooks Shaw, owner of Old Country Store. “But when you can’t get someone to come to an interview you scheduled with them when they applied, it’s hard to maintain a full complement.
“We’ve had a few people who have turned out to be the ones who will show up to work and stay, and these are phenomenal additions to our team. But they only make up a small percentage of the people we talk to come with.
Armstrong said it was difficult to get some people to work for the starting salary at Reliable.
“If someone comes looking for a job and is ready to work without any prior knowledge of what we do in landscaping and lawn care, they will start earning $ 13.25 an hour,” he said. Armstrong said. “And I’ll bring some in here and they start and then come back and tell me they can earn more in another job and they try to make me match or beat me, and I tell them I’m going to pay them more when they can. more to get paid more.
“Yes, we start at $ 13.25, but if you’re willing to stick with me and learn how to do bigger things, you can make $ 16, $ 18, or even $ 20 an hour pretty quickly.”
Because there is a lot of work outside, there is hard work at Reliable, and Armstrong says that will prevent some workers from entering.
“It’s pretty regular for us to bring someone in and then they’re ready to go when they get hot or dirty,” Armstrong said. “And you have to know ahead of time that this is part of what we do.”
Reactions to Governor Lee’s decision to halt federal stimulus in Tennessee
The federal stimulus package to take care of the unemployed when businesses closed at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic added $ 400 per week to unemployment benefits, bringing the weekly payments of the unemployed to nearly $ 800 per week. week, which is equivalent to $ 20 an hour for a 40-hour work week.
Lee said it was time to get the Tennesseans back to work.
“There was a time when that federal stimulus was needed, but those times are over,” Lee said this week while in Huntingdon, announcing that Hydro-Gear would create 375 jobs in Carroll County. “We made the decision to deny the federal component of unemployment insurance so that the people of Tennessee can return to work.
“The job brings dignity, it’s good for families and it’s good for Tennesséens. It’s time to stop paying people not to work, and we need to get back to pre-pandemic employment strategies.
David Kustoff, the United States representative for Tennessee Eighth District, made similar statements last year when speaking with residents of western Tennessee about how they were dealing with the pandemic.
“The improved unemployment benefit is too high, and some employers compete with this benefit and they lose because their employees earn more than they would at work,” Kustoff said last September. “It has been a real problem. “
Business owners said it’s still an issue they hope is about to end, but maybe not.
“I’m glad Governor Lee said no to the federal stimulus, but there are also child care tax credits,” said Diane Cotten. “But if they are about to give more money for those with children – which I know is needed in many cases – then how many people will decide to stay home because they have enough children to live off this? “
Hope for the future
While some at Wednesday’s job fair predicted a shortage of jobs in July when the federal stimulus is no longer available to Tennessians, Armstrong agrees with Cotten that child care tax credits could be too important a reason not to find a job.
“I have people who will come to work for maybe one day,” Armstrong said. “They arrive late in the morning and leave work at lunchtime, then two weeks later I get documents saying they have applied for unemployment.
“There are too many incentives not to work, and I hope that goes away, but I don’t think so if the government promises more money for every child you have. “
In the current state of their respective businesses, Reliable either has to say no to jobs due to a lack of workers and materials, as suppliers are also running out of workers, which means their inventory is running low and slowing down manufacturing. and delivery of supplies.
Jackson Pride must also reduce the number of jobs they do.
“I could keep adding jobs to what we do, but that would overload the staff that I have, and I don’t, burn them and kick them out,” Cotten said. “I hope and pray that we have quality workers here who can do the job and who will show up regularly to do it.”
The Old Country store has cut its take-out service at the Dixie Café on Sunday evenings by one hour and reduced the number of days the café serves breakfast. Shaw said these decisions were not totally influenced by the workforce.
“We didn’t necessarily do it because we’re short, but if a certain time of the week isn’t ideal for sales, we need to look out for our people and not keep them here longer than they don’t need to be here, “Shaw said.” But I hope we’re near the end of this.
“I support Governor Lee’s decision with the federal stimulus, and I think it’s a step in the right direction. Hopefully this will get people to come back to work.
Contact Brandon Shields at [email protected] or 731-425-9751. Follow him on Twitter @JSEditorBrandon or on Instagram at editorbrandon.