On the rebound: Changing labor market leaves many Texas communities at a standstill | Local News
HUNTSVILLE – Chris Woolsey hires hundreds of seasonal workers every year at the famous Collin Street Bakery. With a sharp drop in applications, the large bakery may find it difficult to produce, package and distribute its DeLuxe fruit cakes – a Christmas staple for many families.
“This year we are seeing similar numbers and we still have not determined whether people are still afraid of working because of the virus, are earning more from unemployment by not working or if our salary is not in line with the rest of the market, ”Woolsey said.
The hiring crisis has been a problem for businesses across the country since the spring, and nowhere is it more evident than in small communities in Texas.
Short-staffed restaurants and bars have had to limit hours or close on certain days to give the few employees a much-needed break. New businesses have blocked openings as they struggle to find enough manpower to operate. Even local municipalities have had to increase wages and hiring incentives to retain their employees.
“A significant number of people are leaving the workforce,” said Ray Hernandez, president and CEO of the Huntsville-Walker County Chamber of Commerce in southeast Texas. “Older people are leaving the labor market and younger people are not. This therefore forces employers to increase their wages to over $ 12 an hour just for labor that, before the pandemic, was easily accessible. “
Huntsville, like many communities in Lone Star State, has seen its unemployment rate slowly approach the state average. At the height of the pandemic, the city of nearly 50,000 – home to both the Texas Department of Transportation and Sam Houston State University – saw unemployment rise to 12.7%. That rate fell to 8.2% in July, but remains above the statewide unemployment rate of 6.2%.
Hernandez says small business owners are going to have to be innovative as people leave or stay out of the workforce.
“People are going to have to pay more or get more involved in their business,” he said. “In the past, a business owner could just pay someone to run the day-to-day operations, but for many that is no longer the case.”
Corsica, where Collin Street Bakery is located, has an unemployment rate below the state average of 6%. Woolsey said the bakery employs around 100 staff year round, but is unique in its need to hire a lot of people each year for a short period of time.
“We’re still doing the same job that Collin Street Bakery hired half the city for over the past 100 years,” he said. “We have to fill these seasonal roles every year, but 2020 and 2021 has been a whole different ball game, it has become a full time job for our entire management team to try to find enough people to work.”
Open bakery positions include everything from cake decorating and fruit to shipping, retail and customer service.
“We are offering loyalty rewards, have increased our starting salary and are using all the resources we can to recruit, including newspaper ads, posters, flyers and social media, but at this point all other large employers are doing it as well, ”he said.
Many business experts claim that pay is not always the determining factor whether a person enters the workforce or stays in their current job.
As the Senior Business Development Liaison for the North Central Texas branch of Workforce Solutions, Adam Kern speaks regularly with employers, highlighting what he calls the “retention revolution.”
“I’m talking about culture now more than anything else, and if an employer can’t talk to me about their culture, that’s problem # 1,” he said. “If your culture was good, you would have better retention. “
Kern said many people are using the current opportunity for a career change, but said it’s not all about the money.
“The salary is like # 6 on the list,” Kern added. “Poor leadership has led to more exits than anything else – a lack of common decency, understanding, structure and things like that.”
Along the Texas-Oklahoma border in Cooke County, employment has slowly approached pre-pandemic levels. But employers are still struggling to recruit workers.
The Gainesville office? hosted several career fairs this month across multiple employment sectors including retail, hospitality and advanced manufacturing. Not all of them can be found in restaurants or stores.
“These are not all workstations. Accounting is one of the most difficult positions to fill in this field for whatever reason. You have sales, marketing, operations management – some of those areas, ”said Audrey Schroyer, executive director of the Gainesville Economic Development Corporation.
Local manufacturers face the same problems as restaurants and retailers with a limited number of applicants.
“There’s a good breakdown of the types of positions open, but it’s definitely a huge challenge right now with what we’re seeing in the job market right now,” Schroyer added.
About 80 miles south of Weatherford, a town of nearly 30,000 saw its unemployment rate drop to nearly 4.5% before the pandemic. But companies continue to struggle to find employees.
“I think this is happening with a lot of businesses nationwide – it’s not unique to us,” said Weatherford Chamber of Commerce president Tammy Gazzola. We see companies looking to increase their current wages and working hard to maintain and retain their employees. “
In nearby Mineral Wells, new business owner Jason Lopez has reported difficulties stocking his Crazy 8’s Sports Bar & Grill since it opened on August 2.
“It’s when you think you’ve found someone great that something happens,” he said. “All over town you hear ‘we need a lot’ or ‘someone is quitting’. There are certainly companies that are suffering in terms of employment.
Like other employers, Lopez suspects the monthly $ 1,200 unemployment checks have depressed the hiring market.
“When I had my first interview, a lot of people called for interviews, but didn’t show up,” he said. “And I think it’s because they had to show that they were interviewing. I think a lot of them, unfortunately, have become lazy. They’d rather sit on the couch and collect $ 1,200 a month instead of going out and doubling their money. “
Jobs can be found all over Palestine, from the grocery store to the new steakhouse. Online there are around 800 job openings in a city of less than 18,000 inhabitants.
“Many (business owners) are going through difficult times, even with competitive salaries attracting new employees,” said Heather Chancellor, President and CEO of the Palestine Region Chamber of Commerce. “Some professions are looking at up-front bonuses, many have to keep the salary they are receiving due to the size of our city and cannot compete with a larger market.
“Our new Starbucks, for example, had issues with the maintenance process. I think a big brand like this wouldn’t have the issues a smaller name would have, but by offering in-person and virtual interviews they were able to hire a full staff and will be opening soon.
“New business will always come, it may be a little more difficult than expected to hire new people, but we are not unique in this situation.”