Ohio Means Jobs: COVID-19 isn't only culprit in Muskingum County labor shortage

·3 min read
Field supervisor and crane operator Josh Haug climbs into a crane at FrühQuip's facility near Zanesville. The company works hard to retain its highly-skilled employees amid a nationwide labor shortage, which Ohio Means Jobs officials say can no longer simply be attributed to the pandemic's effects on the economy.
Field supervisor and crane operator Josh Haug climbs into a crane at FrühQuip's facility near Zanesville. The company works hard to retain its highly-skilled employees amid a nationwide labor shortage, which Ohio Means Jobs officials say can no longer simply be attributed to the pandemic's effects on the economy.

ZANESVILLE — Retaining employees is a high priority at FrühQuip.

The Zanesville-based industrial services company knows it is hard to come by the skilled laborers required for the rigging, heavy machinery moving, construction contracting and maintenance jobs that workers do every day.

"It’s a smaller workforce, so we try to emphasize: Let's take care of our people so we’re not one of those companies that loses that skilled person if they get a better offer or better boss," CFO John Collet said.

The company has had success with that strategy. But many employers are still having trouble getting people on the payroll to begin with, according to Troy McCollister, director of Ohio Means Jobs Muskingum County.

Muskingum County labor shortage: Local companies pining for workers

The county continues to face a labor shortage across a wide range of industries. There are more than 3,000 open jobs within a 20-mile radius of Zanesville, according to Ohio Means Jobs, a free job-seeking service provided through the state's Jobs and Family Services.

The county's unemployment rate was 3.4% in November, down from the same time the year prior.

So why are companies still scrounging for workers?

It's complicated, but the COVID-19 pandemic and its early unemployment benefits aren't the only things to blame, McCollister said.

In fact, the labor shortage trend may be permanent.

"This is something — where it may be a scarcity of available people to fill the jobs — is something we’re going to have to deal with," he said. "There’s got to be a better way to find them."

Theories for labor shortage emerge

A lack of workers can be attributed to a shrinking workforce overall.

That's something that OMJ has had to adjust to. The purpose of the government department is to assist employers in finding candidates, and vice versa.

"Our old message always worked really, really well: People post jobs, people come to us. People and jobs were really easy to match up," he said. "People and jobs are becoming harder to match up."

Troy McCollister
Troy McCollister

Baby Boomers are hitting retirement age. Couples are realizing they can make it on one income instead of two after adjusting to job loss early in the pandemic.

Jobs across all industries can be found on OMJ. Hundreds of listings for entry-level retail positions exist in the area, as well as warehouse positions, manufacturing, banking and more. Candidates with commercial driver's licenses are needed across many industries.

Health care jobs are in particularly high demand.

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McCollister noted the younger generations are just not as big as the Baby Boomer generation, leaving the current adult workforce size at a disadvantage.

OMJ has had to adjust by putting ads on television and social media to attract potential jobseekers. It appears to be a problem that won't just persist in the pandemic, though.

"We’re just getting ready to go down this road," McCollister said. "Things are changing."

Skilled labor hard to come by

Industries seeking commercially licensed drivers continue to suffer from a lack of qualified applicants, McCollister said.

It's not just trucking companies who need CDL candidates. Construction, warehouse distribution, and other industries also offer services that require that expertise.

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That's why FrühQuip tries so hard to retain its 14-employee staff.

"Our biggest challenge is most of the skill sets we need, is most of those people are gainfully employed," Collet said.

The company is not currently hiring, but Collet said applications are accepted if interest arises.

"It’s not necessarily about money," he said of employee retention. "There’s a lot more to it with a company trying to support a person who’s trying to raise a family."

To find local job listings and learn about other OMJ services, visit www.muskingumcountyjfs.com/Ohio-Means-Jobs/.

ecouch@gannett.com

740-450-6752

Twitter: @couchreporting

This article originally appeared on Zanesville Times Recorder: Pandemic isn't only culprit in Muskingum County labor shortage