Is the worker shortage getting worse?

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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — It’s been a summer filled with job openings all over KELOLAND and the country. But as we move into fall, many employers are feeling even more of a shortage of workers.

“We will definitely see impacts as students leave that summer employment,” South Dakota Labor and Regulation Secretary Marcia Hultman said. “This year is trending like other years, but more steeply.”

Hultman says seasonal shifts in employment are common in South Dakota, but this year the numbers are unlike anything employers in the state have seen before.

“Some of the key things we look at are just the number of job openings, and we have been at historic highs all summer. Our last numbers were 27,000 open jobs and we’ve never seen that many jobs before in our database,” Hultman said.

Hultman says she doesn’t expect the staffing shortage to get worse this fall or winter, but does expect the problem of more jobs than people to remain steady.

“I think we’re going to continue to see the same issues at about the same level,” Hultman said. “The problem is not going to go away, but I don’t expect it to get exponentially worse either.”

“It’s definitely an employee’s market,” Continuity Business Solutions owner Doug Erickson said.

Recruiting firms like Continuity Business Solutions say the current staffing shortage means a lot of opportunities for workers.

“In the last three months, I have seen wages at the companies that I work with have all gone up by a dollar to five dollars an hour,” Erickson said. “There’ s a lot of job opportunities right now, so there’s a lot of options out there for individuals to find the job that you want.”

While the competition is good for people in the market for a job, both Erickson and Hultmon know it’s tough on business owners.

“Companies are continually calling us from all over, trying to find individuals to fill positions, so yes we’re out there trying to find just as many people as we can,” Erickson said.

“I don’t see it [the staffing shortage] getting any worse,” Hultman said. “But when you’re that employer who has to maybe not open every day of the week or reduce your hours, that definitely is a huge impact and that employer is going to say, it can’t get any worse.”

Both labor professionals say it will take more people moving into the state and more people choosing to enter the workforce for both first and second jobs to help ease these staffing shortages.

 “I’m continually getting calls from people from out of state, that are looking at South Dakota,” Erickson said.

“We have seen numbers in the workforce increase, which is good news,” Hultman said. “Our unemployment rate has remained unchanged for the past few months.”

While South Dakota’s unemployment rate remains less than three percent, Hultman says many workers across the country made some changes during the pandemic. Whether it was retiring early, getting rid of that second job or changing industries, Hultman says a lot of those pandemic-related work decisions are still being felt in the current staffing shortage.

“I think it’s going to take some time for that to level out until we see what the long-term impacts of those decisions are,” Hultman said.

She says the number of youth in the workforce has also been dropping over the past few years, which is also contributing to some of the shortages being felt in the workforce across America.

“South Dakota is not unique, we’re not alone in this challenge, but we may be experiencing it to a slightly greater degree than other states,” Hulman said.

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