This is the first of a two-part report looking at local job market with hundreds of openings across all sectors, yet initial unemployment claims continue to rise. It’s a growing concern as companies say they are not able to grow without staff. Both employers and potential employees are welcome to post on our Jobs Facebook post here.
By Natalie Simms
Despite increasing numbers of initial unemployment claims across the region, local business and industry leaders say the jobs are available but no one is applying for them. The 60 members of the Greater Rome Existing Industry Association report some 400-plus open positions but say additional federal unemployment benefits and stimulus payments give some possible candidates no incentive to work.
“There are hundreds of jobs here, we just can’t find people to fill them. I was at the GREIA meeting this week and all manufacturers were saying the same thing,” says David Newby, President and CEO of Profile Custom Extrusion in Rome, which has approximately 180 employees.
“In my 40 years here, I have never seen anything like this. We have always had a strong workforce in Rome. We do know the stimulus has created part of the problem. With the federal unemployment, folks can make over $16 an hour not working. They don’t have to search for jobs right now…there is no incentive to work.”
The state’s unemployment benefits top out at $365 a week, while the federal government adds $300 a week. That adds up to the equivalent of $16.63 per hour for a 40-hour week, which in some cases is more than they made when they were working.
According to the latest statistics from the Georgia Department of Labor, the initial unemployment claims increased 29% (32,102) in March to 143,410 compared to 111,308 claims in February 2020. Locally:
- Floyd had 1,260 initial claims in March, up 26.8% over February.
- Bartow had 1,671 initial claims in March, up 22.1%
- Gordon was up 16.1% in March with 1,018 claims.
- Polk was down 8.6% with 502 claims in March compared to 549 in February.
- Chattooga was down 3.5% in March with 136 claims vs. 141 in February.
- For more: Statistics
Pam Powers-Smith, director of Business and Industry at Rome-Floyd Chamber, says she has been surveying both large and small businesses on workforce and labor issues. She says all areas of employers are having trouble finding workers, including restaurants, medical, manufacturing, government and education.
“The types of positions that are available are quite honestly all over the spectrum. I think some people make the assumption that it’s only entry level positions but the survey said it was all…entry level, middle management, top level management, customer service, skilled labor, degreed and certified,” she says.
The chamber has a job site (www.romega.com) that is updated daily. It currently has 122 jobs listed. Powers-Smith says it gets some 10,000 hits each month.
Newby says his company has 12 open positions right now and could bring in more but can’t grow until they fill the immediate openings.
“We have both production jobs and management positions as well. We are having trouble just finding people who will show up. We will bring in seven employees just to keep one of them,” he says.
Jennifer Cole, Human Resources manager at F&P Georgia, says her company has 20 immediate openings and is doing “anything and everything to recruit new employees.”
“We have never had this difficulty staffing before. It is not because of our work environment. F&P is a great place to work; we have great benefits and wages. We have 14 million hours worked without a lost-time accident, so we have a safe environment,” she says.
“We’re finding it hard to recruit when we’re learning people would rather stay home and draw unemployment. As long as people are making $15 an hour with unemployment, they will keep drawing it…that is what we’re fighting against…I have never seen it like this in the 20 years I’ve been in the industry.”
John Cothran, Operations Manager at Brugg Lifting North America and chair of GREIA, says his small company has had trouble filling his vacant shop positions.
“Applicants are almost non-existent. Sometimes it is weeks before an agency sends an applicant our way,” he says. “We are certainly not on the upper end for starting wages. However, even some of those businesses with the higher starting wages have the same problem. I am sure the pandemic has played a significant role here but it seems that since COVID, workers can make almost the same staying at home.
“Fortunately, since we are a small company, we are maintaining by all of us covering all the business needs…we all wear a lot of hats. It is a daily struggle and until we are fully staffed, business growth maybe challenging.”
Manufacturers are not the only ones struggling to find workers. Local businessman and developer Wayne Robinson owns several Bojangles restaurants in Northwest Georgia including locations in Cartersville, Calhoun, Adairsville, Summerville and Hiram. He says it has been “extremely hard” to find employees.
“We have ‘Now Hiring’ signs up at all the businesses and have had no applicants. I think every fast-food and quick service restaurant is looking for employees,” he says.
“It is frustrating to operate with such low staff levels. That’s the reason we haven’t been able to open the dining rooms at Bojangles back up…there is not enough staff on shift to cover both dining room and drive-through. We have even had to close earlier because we don’t have staff. It has made us be creative in stretching employees out.
“Restaurants typically have 35-50 employees and everyone is fighting for same folks. The stimulus checks have taken away the incentive to look for jobs. So many are content not to work. But once the stimulus money evaporates, I look for the job market to return.
“In the meantime, we are offering higher salaries and entry rates…but it’s very frustrating to be a business owner right now.”
Nick Hann, owner of JWH Transport in Rome, also is having a tough time filling transportation jobs for truck drivers.
“We are not exempt…it’s hitting every industry,” he says. “We are a smaller transportation company with 40 trucks. We typically average at least 10 applications per month but we have had maybe 10 applications in the last 90 days…about a 60% decrease.
“Trucking as a whole is hard to find employees because there are lots of guys that hold a CDL (Commercial Drivers License) but getting them qualified is another story because of a bad driving record or drugs.”
“We are constantly hiring, even when the market is doing well. We need at least two drivers right now.”
Coming Tuesday: Hometown Headlines will take a look at various ways local employers are working to attract applicants and how to apply for jobs.
- Job postings on the Rome Floyd Chamber. Click Rome jobs
- Job postings on the Cartersville-Bartow County Chamber of Commerce site. Cartersville jobs
- Northwest Georgia Career Depot. Career Depot