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Moving companies boxed in by Utah's labor shortage

Posted at 10:01 PM, Jul 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-17 00:01:55-04

As if moving isn't already enough of a pain, Utahns can add this stress on top of trying to carefully Tetris their belongings into boxes: Hiring a moving company that can actually accommodate the job.

Several moving businesses told Fox 13 they're experiencing a post-pandemic labor shortage, much like the restaurant and hospitality industry is seeing. They're crazy busy, and turning customers away.

READ: Summer travel overwhelms some businesses lacking staff to stay open

On Friday afternoon, five guys hoisted heavy boxes and carefully wrapped tables and chairs at a Salt Lake City Avenues home, before strategically wedging items in the back of a semi-trailer.

Korinne Hendrikse of Mountain States Moving and Storage explained that this particular customer scheduled the move to Arizona with them months in advance.

They wouldn't have been able to take that job on, had the person waited to call.

"If they were to call a mover right now, they would probably be told like we're telling people that, 'I'd love to help you, but unfortunately, we're booked until almost the end of August already.'"

Summer is always the busy season, Hendrikse said, but she's never seen a summer season like this one -- and she's worked at Mountain States Moving and Storage, a company her father founded, since high school.

During the pandemic, she said business slowed way down. People weren't moving as much. But now that things have opened back up, so has their business.

Mountain States Moving and Storage began to ramp up staffing back in March, Hendrikse explained. The moving boom hit them in April.

"We can't hire enough people to do the jobs that people call and want us to do, we have to unfortunately turn them away," she said.

Mark Knold, Chief Economist with the Utah Department of Workforce Services, said it is unprecedented how much of the economy awoke at once about two to three months ago, when COVID-19 restrictions lifted.

"Much of the industry sectors that were really shut down during COVID or restricted during the COVID-19 pandemic, just seemed to have all come awake at the same time," Knold said. "And all of a sudden, the job postings and the need for workers just collectively exploded all at once."

He added that the labor force can't respond that quickly to all of the sudden job openings -- especially with Utah's already low 2.7 percent unemployment rate.

Knold described how the job market is still in a transition period, and will need more time to help get back to what feels like normal.

"I think they're going to be struggling with this throughout the rest of the year," he said, of businesses.

READ: Millions planning to change jobs as COVID-19 cases decrease

For Hendrikse and Mountain States Moving and Storage, the tight job market and busy season are only part of the equation. She talked about how the crazy housing market means more people are trying to move right now.

Some families have gotten desperate, calling them day-of after other companies bailed last second. But Hendrikse said they just aren't able to take those jobs on.

"We're just trying to make it through, day-to-day," she said, with a chuckle. "If something cancels, we hurry and stick something else in that spot because there's people waiting in the wings."

She knows it'll take time to catch up. For now, they're pushing forward and only taking the jobs they can guarantee the staffing for.

"The only thing you really can do is just try and coast," she said. "See if this mellows out a bit, when things kind of get more back to normal."