If you want a job right now, you should have no trouble finding one.
At least, that’s the general consensus among Alabama economic experts and local business leaders.
“NOW HIRING” signs posted in front windows and hung from awnings across the state back up the claim, as does the most recent data from the Alabama Department of Labor.
November 2021 figures show 28,657 more online job openings than unemployed in the state, meaning if every unemployed person were to get one of the available jobs in the state, there would be nearly 30,000 left. Jobs.
While those numbers will never line up exactly, experts like Ahmad Ijaz of the University of Alabama say that gap will likely widen as the unemployment rate declines and the economy continues to grow in 2022.
“If you look at the employment numbers, we’re constantly adding jobs in almost every industry,” Ijaz said. “When the economy comes out of a recession, there is always a mismatch between the skills and jobs available. We could be going through this phase now.
When it comes to getting the state’s economy back to its pre-pandemic state of record unemployment and record wages, the job opportunities are there, but where is the workforce?
Health hires shadow hospitals
Few labor shortages compare to those in hospitals. The nursing shortage plagued Alabama for years before being exacerbated by early retirements, increased national competition for salaries and the so-called “Great Resignation” over the past two years.
“If you have a nurse who wants a job in Alabama, she can get a job. From the perspective of people getting into nursing, this is absolutely the employee market,” said Dr. Don Williamson, president and CEO of the Alabama Hospital Association. “They will be able to find employment in almost any setting they wish to seek employment.”
Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates show nearly 20% or half a million American health care workers have left the field since the pandemic began, and Williamson said many of those were Alabamians.
“It is estimated that it will take us until 2025 to return to our pre-pandemic staffing levels,” he said.
There were just over 3,600 vacancies for registered nurses in Alabama on Jan. 11, according to the popular job site Nurse.com.
“Our licensed professionals are now tempted by manufacturing positions,” said Shannon Bjornseth, recruiting manager at Huntsville Hospital. “There are more job openings than there are people available to fill them.”
Huntsville Hospital, which is one of the state’s top employers, has adjusted its wages, improved its childcare services and made a greater commitment to recruiting high school medical students to stay competitive in the face of to the small number of job seekers.
One of the weirdest changes Bjornseth has seen, however, is a dramatic increase in the number of contestants ghosting them.
“That’s when they initially accepted the job, but they will quit or just drop the communication,” she said. “We think it’s because they’re probably getting multiple offers at the same time.”
It’s become such a problem that the hospital is tracking its ‘ghost rate’ – and it’s up 50% since 2021.
Competition drives up hospitality wages
The hospitality industry has struggled almost as much as healthcare throughout the pandemic, as people have stopped traveling, staying in hotels, and regularly dining out.
Tens of thousands of layoffs took place in the first six months of COVID, and now the industry can’t get those people back to work.
“There’s a lot of truth in the people who said they’ve been rethinking whether or not they want to continue doing this type of work, earning the amount of money they’re earning,” the director of media said. Renaissance Montgomery Human Resources, Tim Budd. “I can tell you that there have been people in our company, who frankly I didn’t think they would ever leave this company, who jumped ship for a lot more money with other companies. “
Budd has worked in the hospitality industry for 34 years and he has never seen his hotel as busy or as understaffed as it is today.
For management positions alone, the Renaissance has six openings and the hotel had to hire a third-party housekeeping service because too few people were applying for these internal positions.
Even though the hotel’s restaurants are generating more business than ever, Budd said that’s not necessarily sustainable.
“I think we’re stable at around 60-70%, but only because people are making so much money working there,” he said. “We just don’t have enough people like we should to follow all of this comfortably.”
So where did the hotel employees go? Budd doesn’t know for sure, but he says the schedule and salary are definitely some of the reasons they left.
When the hotel begins its budgeting process for the next fiscal year, it expects to consider “significantly raising wages” to attract good workers. More flexible hours and work-from-home positions are also possibilities.
Looking for poached workers
Restaurants and their owners have grown accustomed to change since the pandemic began, and many have had varying opening and closing times due to a lack of workers. Even with open applications and “HIRING” signs in the windows, many are operating with less than full staff.
With such a small pool of job seekers, restaurants in Montgomery have become competitive with each other for the employees they already have.
“I think with new businesses opening in the area, something is happening,” said local property manager Jake Kyser. “They call it poaching, which is when you hire good employees outside of a business because you need them in your business. We kinda see what’s going on.
Kyser’s company manages downtown Montgomery’s Central, the Tower Taproom and the Lower Lounge. When he found out about the “poaching,” Kyser said it put more emphasis on getting his employees paid and the benefits they brought in each week.
“We’re maybe trying not to business as usual, like it’s been done in the industry in the past,” he said. “This has resulted in increased wages and increased hourly rates for some employees as well.”
Now Keyser has far fewer employees on his payroll than before. When he wonders where they went after leaving his companies, he thinks some of them are able to stay at home, some are receiving unemployment, and a few are taking on new jobs.
“I don’t know,” he said. “But, you know, I hope people still want to go out to dinner, and still want to be taken care of and not have to cook at home. That’s what we’re betting on anyway.
Hadley Hitson covers the rural South for the Montgomery Advertiser and Report for America. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.