Utah industries having hard time finding workers

Utah Employment
Posted at 4:45 PM, May 07, 2021

SALT LAKE CITY — The Department of Labor reports that U.S. employers added 266,000 jobs in April, a sharp decline from March and far below what economists had predicted.

WATCH: Low unemployment leading to high job vacancy in restaurants across Utah

Non-farm payroll employment rose by 770,000 jobs in March and was expected to be over one million in April. The Utah Department of Workforce (DWS) services says the decline in growth could be a sign that employers are having a hard time finding workers.

"We just are having a little bit of a delay in our labor force meeting that demand of the economy in general," said DWS regional economist, Lyndsey Stram.

She added that business face a double-edged sword as revenues rise with the loosening of pandemic restrictions, coupled with a hesitancy, or inability, for some to return to the workforce.

"There are a lot of reasons for that. I think we have people who have maybe taken this opportunity as this kind of pause to make career changes, maybe go back to school," Stram said. "We have people who have larger care giving responsibilities at home with their students who are remote learning. We have people who had to step away for those reasons."

Manufacturing is one industry that saw a decrease in overall job growth in April. Down 18,000 jobs after gains of 35,000 jobs in February, and 54,000 in March.

Hercules Industries, a local sheet metal manufacturing firm that provides parts for HVAC systems, has experienced the double-edge sword Stram described firsthand.

WATCH: Utah's labor and unemployment numbers explained

Branch manager Chris Larsen said the company was able to hit, and even exceed, growth goals over the last year, but has a hard time filling open positions.

"There's been quite a few jobs that we've had posted that have kind of been unfilled for some time," he added.

Stram said Utah's resilient economy is one reason why businesses are having a hard time finding employees. Low unemployment throughout the pandemic — compared to the U.S. as a whole — and more businesses beginning to open up creates a smaller, more competitive job market for employers.

"We are going to see employers have to offer more in terms of wages or perks in order to be more competitive in this job market because it is so tight and because the demand has not quite caught up with supply," she said.

READ: Number of Americans seeking unemployment falls to 498K

All this equates to good news for job seekers, but more money to spend for businesses.

"Pay rate has a lot to do with it," Larsen said. "You know, we're competing for talent in lots of different industries, and because the economy has been so strong you don't have the same number of people looking for jobs because there are so many available."

Michael McHenry, owner of the McHenry restaurant group, said in a phone call that he has had to add an employee sign on bonus for new cooks and servers, as well as a referral bonus for existing employees in order to remain competitive. He added that both perks are rarely seen in the service and hospitality industry, which is making big gains as the economy continues to rebound. The food and beverage services sector added 187,000 in April.