Has anyone noticed the ever-growing size of the Herald’s classified advertising section in recent weeks? In last week’s newspaper, the section topped out at four and half pages, one of the largest spreads of classifieds in recent memory.
A massive hiring effort among regional businesses is the reason for this uptick in classifieds, with “Help Wanted” advertisements lining four of the section’s pages.
Throughout May, the Herald’s classified sections reflected a need for workers across various industries and sectors. Local shops and restaurants need clerks and servers; Climax Molybdenum is hiring; adventure companies are looking for raft guides; the school district and college are seeking instructors, social workers and substitute teachers; Lake County Government is attempting to fill openings in administrative and recreation roles; museums need docents; and utility companies like Spectrum and Sangre de Cristo are looking for technicians.
“Help wanted” signs are also posted on the doors of establishments around town such as Tennessee Pass Cafe, City on a Hill Coffee & Espresso and Treeline Kitchen. And the Herald’s parent company, Arkansas Valley Publishing, is looking to fill several vacant reporter, advertising and office manager positions at its newspapers.
Where are the workers? And why is it so difficult for businesses to hire right now?
The current labor situation in the United States is marked by a high demand for and low supply of labor, a phenomenon many economists believe stems from a sudden increase in hiring as businesses return to pre-pandemic operations. This demand for labor, economists theorize, is paired with a workforce that is not yet ready to return to work because of child care, elder care, health concerns or other reasons.
For example, while businesses ramp up for a more “normal” summer, parents are preparing for summer vacation after a year of remote learning with students. For many parents who exited the workforce in 2020 to care for a child, it does not yet make sense to look for work.
Some workers are staying out of the labor market due to health concerns, whether immunocompromised, elderly or unwilling to get vaccinated. And others might be distrustful of returning to work environments that did not take appropriate public health precautions throughout the pandemic.
Some economists believe that the additional unemployment insurance benefits provided by the federal government throughout the pandemic, $300 per week, are keeping people from rejoining the workforce. And almost half of the nation’s states, all of which are run by Republican governors, will end access to federal unemployment benefits early for this reason.
In Lake County, and in most Colorado mountain towns, housing shortages continue to serve as a massive roadblock to hiring. It is not only difficult to find affordable housing, but housing at all, as more people move to Leadville and second home owners buy up properties.
Let’s hope our local businesses are able to find enough staff to sustain operations this summer as more tourists begin to pass through town each week.