Lisa Coblentz, franchise owner of Manpower Hiring Services in Frederick, is dealing with a supply and demand issue shared by employers nationwide. There are simply more job openings than there are applicants.
With the economy opening back up — yet pandemic-prompted unemployment benefits still in play — employers are fighting to retain current employees and lure new ones.
Workers at Manpower and companies like it are spending their days trying to find workers to fill companies’ needs.
“What happened most recently is the demand has continued to be higher because of restaurants and other businesses reopening, but people have not been willing to come back to work,” Coblentz said.
Rick Weldon, CEO of the Frederick County Chamber of Commerce, said the issue is more complex than the reasons given by either political party.
“Republicans say it’s because we’re paying elevated, enhanced unemployment benefits. And the Democrats all say it’s because wage rates are too low,” Weldon said. “The truth is both of those things are probably part of the problem.”
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) announced on Tuesday that he would be ending the extra unemployment benefits in July rather than the original end date in September. The hope is to encourage more people to go back to work now that the risk of COVID-19 has been lessened by mass vaccinations.
But some reasons why people are not returning to work might take longer to resolve than July. For example, many parents without child care have not been able to go to work while their children stay home from school.
“So now that the kids will be going back come this September, late August on a full-time basis, I think that will also help opening people up to start looking for work as well,” said David West, owner of Express Employment Professionals in Frederick.
Wages are another issue. When so many companies are vying for employees, they need to stand out and be competitive. One way to do that is to offer higher wages.
“We’re seeing a tremendous increase in wages in the last year, even while the pandemic was peaking, we saw pay for hourly folks increase as much as $2, $3 an hour,” Coblentz said. “Because the employers couldn’t get the work they needed to get their product out the door.”
Spherion on East Street in Frederick has partnered with Ellume, the Australian bio-manufacturer that is planning on bringing 1,500 jobs to Frederick County this year. Owner Tammy Feaster said Spherion has been ramping up hiring for its clients of late. They’ve seen a steady stream of potential employees since last March, since they never closed their doors as an essential business.
“This has been very unique for me because I can’t predict what’s happening, but I do feel that the variety of business sectors that we’re working with are definitely on the the up and up,” Feaster said.
While recruitment for Ellume has been successful so far, Feaster said the company does expect to take an additional six months to fill its positions.
West only opened Express Employment Professionals last May. Originally, he had problems finding businesses who wanted to work with Express to fill their positions.
But today, it’s a completely different playing field.
“I would say early last fall we had more applicants than we had job openings, now it’s the other way around,” West said. “We have more job openings than we have experienced applicants to fill those.”