MCPHERSON, Kan. (AP) — Industries in the central Kansas town of McPherson are scrambling to find enough workers to fill openings and are depending heavily on employees who live outside of the community.
The competition has given workers the upper hand in some instances, said Tiffany Lansaw, supervisor for the local office of LSI staffing, a service that places people in light industrial factories.
“When you have a lot of businesses looking for people, employees have a lot of options,” Lansaw told the McPherson Sentinel.
But those options can hurt workers in the long run, especially those who jump from job to job and create a poor work history.
Most communities with shrinking populations are having issues with finding enough workers to fill jobs, said Kasi Morales, GoMcPherson director of community recruitment and president of the McPherson Area Human Resources Professionals.
“So far, McPherson County’s strong employment opportunities have been enough to pull the workforce in from the surrounding areas mainly from Hutchinson and Salina,” she said. “However, we recognize this isn’t sustainable long term, and we need to be working to attract more people to the area.”
The city’s unemployment rate as of August was 4.3 percent, far lower than the national average of 7.2 percent.
Low wages are one factor that keeps employers from filling positions, said Nick Longhofer, a recruiter for Kelly Services. Another issue holding some people back is scheduling, especially for single parents who need child care but don’t have other family members in town.
Also, he said he occasionally has problems finding people to meet job requirements, and that transportation is an issue for some people who work outside of town.
“Either they don’t have a reliable vehicle, or gas is too expensive,” Longhofer said.
Businesses have a few strategies to draw in new employees, such as flexible hours and higher pay, Lansaw and Longhofer said.
But beyond those — or finding recent college graduates with the right education who are willing to fill positions — many of the staffing problems businesses face remain outside their control.
“There’s not a whole lot a company can do to lower the cost of living,” Lansaw said. “You can only offer a higher wage so many times before that stops being an option.”