Local employers are always looking for workers, especially in the manufacturing sector


LANCASTER — The worst of the COVID-19 pandemic appears to be over. But some local employers are still struggling to find workers as life returns to more or less normal.

Canal Winchester economic development director Lucas Haire said employers in the manufacturing sector were having the most problems.

“We’ve probably had over 700 new jobs in the community in the last year and a lot of them haven’t had a hard time hiring,” he said. “But a lot of them are in warehouses and distribution (sectors). And those bring a bit higher salaries. They offer more flexibility in hours and they don’t have problems with hiring. “

But Haire said manufacturing employers who offer less flexibility and are reluctant to raise wages are in trouble.

He said he doesn’t think the manufacturing problem will change anytime soon.

“I don’t know,” Haire said. “You have a lot of blue-collar workers who are part of this generation of baby boomers leaving the workforce. We don’t have a large group of people entering the workforce who want to be in these blue-collar industries. “

He said high gas prices hovering around $4 for a gallon of regular unleaded aren’t helping.

“Not as many people are willing to travel long distances for jobs,” Haire said. “So that’s also caused a problem. A lot of the workforce that comes into Fairfield County is from the southeast. They’re commuting and it starts to make a lot less sense when the fuel costs $4 a gallon to do that long haul every day if the wages don’t support that kind of haul.”

MORE: Local officials and employers say there are multiple reasons for the labor shortage

Fairfield County Employment and Family Services Director Corey Clark said the labor market is largely open locally.

“It seems almost every employer is hiring right now,” he said.

Clark said the local labor shortage is hitting just about every industry. But like Haire, he said manufacturing was the hardest hit, along with skilled trades.

“But certainly if you drive up Memorial Drive, you can see almost every fast food restaurant and retail outlet (business) is hiring,” Clark said.

He said there are several reasons for the labor shortage, including the fact that more people are retiring than entering the workforce. Clark said that trend has been continuing for a few years, but the COVID-19 pandemic has amplified it.

“There were people who were maybe planning to retire in the next year to five years who decided maybe now was the time instead,” he said.

Clark said the pandemic has undoubtedly caused two-earner families to become single-earner families as they have to care for children who come home from school so often and learn remotely. He said some families may have decided to remain single-income families.

Clark said parts of the labor shortage will be long-term.

“Certainly the trend that there are more people retiring and leaving the workforce than there are entering the workforce,” he said. “It’s just based on population demographics. I don’t think there’s going to be an event that’s going to just flip the switch overnight and all of a sudden see a ton of people come into the market work. I think it’s going to be more gradual than that.”

The JFS runs the Ohio Means Job program locally for those seeking employment. Clark said about 1,000 people a month would come before the pandemic. But it’s around 300 and 400 now. Clark said the drop could be because it’s easier to find work and people may not need the service.

Fairfield County Economic Development Director Rick Szabrak said there are plenty of jobs available in central Ohio.

“While they still have plenty of openings, we are seeing more people applying and more people entering the job market than we did last year,” he said. “It’s on the rise. One of the big things is that COVID has kind of flattened out. Schools are now in session regularly and people are able to plan now and not worry about whether it’s going to happen. going to have school tomorrow or if it’s going to be far away.”

Szabrak also said some families who were meant to become single-earners during the pandemic are now realizing that they need two earners.

But that doesn’t mean the labor shortage is over.

“There are labor shortages everywhere,” Szabrak said. “The restaurant industry continues to struggle more than many. Hours can be tougher in restaurants. You have nights and weekends. And quite frankly, in the service industry you have to be very patient .”

He said the economy is seeing more and more people working with companies like Uber and Grubhub, which he says will impact the service industry.

Szabrak also spoke about labor shortages in the manufacturing sector.

“Part of the problem is supply chain issues, it becomes difficult to determine staffing for manufacturers,” he said. “Because if you’re waiting for parts that you can’t get and you need to put them together, you might not have a job for people today.”

Even with difficulties finding workers, Szabrak said local manufacturers are growing and enjoying good business.

“Manufacturing isn’t the dirty, dark, dangerous dead end job that they might think it was in the past,” he said of people’s perceptions. “So hopefully we see more people realizing that.”

Szabrak also said construction jobs were at their highest in central Ohio. He said this will continue after Intel’s recent announcement to open a chip factory in New Albany and the opening of some data centers in the area.

“There will be a greater need for construction now and in the future,” Szabrak said. “We’re going to be short of those jobs for a while. But we’re trying to do everything we can to try to fill those types of positions with programs with the (Fairfield County) workforce center and everywhere elsewhere in central Ohio. All the trade schools are trying to ramp up in their construction trades.”

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Twitter: @JeffDBarron

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