Tight Labor Market Here Has Employers Scrambling PDF Print E-mail
News - Local News
Monday, 04 December 2017 10:27
Staff Writer
Chattooga County is seeing strong employment numbers as the county enters the final month of 2017, so strong in fact that some employers are having a hard time filling positions.
Department of Labor statistics show countywide unemployment at 4.2 percent, below the state average of 4.4 percent and down from 5.9 percent at the same  time last year.
More county residents are looking for work this year and more of them are finding it. According to the Department of Labor 10,362 of 10,818 county residents were on the job in October. That’s down slightly (10,412 of 10,865) from the previous month but considerably better than in 2016’s October number, 10,138 of 10,770. 
“Everybody is feeling the tight labor market,” said Chattooga County Commissioner Jason Winters. “Our manufacturers are begging for workers.”
“We’ve come a long way from where we were seven years ago,” said Winters. “Then we were desperate for jobs for our workers, now we’re desperate for workers to fill jobs. It’s a night and day situation.”
Steve Ayers, president of J.P. Smith Lumber Co. in Menlo is feeling the crunch.
“We’ll take six workers tomorrow morning if you can get them in our door,” Ayers said.
The company needs laborers, skilled laborers and truck drivers.
Ayers said the labor market in the county has been tightening for several years.  
“There was a time when offering health insurance helped you hire workers but now with Obamacare there are people who could be working who figure they can not work and get their insurance cheaper.”
Ayers said his company employs about 65 people, most of them from Chattooga County.
“But we’ll hire them from anywhere if they are qualified,” he said.
He said more than half of the people who put in applications don’t come back.
“We work hard here and there are people out there who don’t want to work hard,” Ayers added. “They would rather stay home and collect unemployment than work.”
Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Sylvia Lee Keziah said the influx of young workers into the labor market helped local retailers find help.
“Those kinds of jobs are excellent ‘first jobs’ for young people,” she said.
She believes retail businesses are finding enough workers but is aware of the shortage of help for some manufacturers.
“Just about everyone who wants a job has one at this point,” she said. “There are some people who can’t pass a drug test or who have transportation problems who may be struggling but most people are working.”  
Winters said he believes the tight labor market is helping push up pay.
“I don’t have any numbers to show it but some of our manufacturers are starting to pay higher starting wages,” he said. “There has been some growth in the median income here.”
“There is no shortage of jobs,” Winters said. “Restaurants, retail merchants, manufacturers – they are all looking for workers.”

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