REDMOND, OR -- Oregon’s unemployment rate rose in August, for the first time in seven months; but “help wanted” signs abound in Central Oregon. Jobless claims typically rise in the summer, when students compete for openings alongside people moving into the region. But, this summer was different, and a number of local businesses report they’re still struggling to fill vacancies.
William Higgins has three openings at Gills Point S Tire in Redmond – two of the jobs have been posted for three months. He tells KBND News he's having trouble finding applicants who meet basic requirements. "One, they’re willing to work; two, that are willing to work for the wage that’s offered and then can go through passing the background and all the other requirements. The qualified applicants are just not coming through the door or online. You know, you have an applicant that has good experience, great qualifications and then they don’t have a driver’s license." He adds, "I think what it is, is we’re getting applicants that are being rejected everywhere else."
The hiring manager at Mike's Fence Center in Bend tells KBND News his company has nearly 10 openings. He's struggled to find workers for the past year, despite offering "good, competitive family wages with benefits."
At Gills Point S Tire, Higgins says, "This time last year, when we were trying to fill positions, which we did very easily, I had a surplus of applicants and I got to choose which ones were the best qualified. Going into spring, we decided to hold off [hiring] a little bit. Then, as we went into summer, we needed to start building up the crew and it was like hitting a wall trying to find people."
A short drive along South Highway 97 in Redmond reveals a cluster of businesses all looking to hire (pictured). Higgins believes that's compounding the problem, "Someone can go flip burgers for $13 an hour at Burger King, and it’s hard to compete with that." His jobs start at $12-$17 an hour, depending on the position and experience.
Central Oregon’s latest jobless numbers are due out early next week.