As Labor Day looms, hiring remains a challenge for many businesses across Marion County.
“We haven’t had a lot of applicants,” said Dani Hatfield Makovec, co-owner with her husband, Ryan, of Al’s Café in Lost Springs. “We need at least two full-time people front and back.”
The Mexican restaurant recently posted on its Facebook page that it was looking for “friendly and reliable kitchen staff and servers.”
Al’s reopened in May after closing for about two years after the matriarch of the family-run business, Delora Alvarez, died.
Hatfield Makovec worked at the restaurant in high school — something many young people did, she said.
But that employment pipeline has dried up.
“In the past few years, it’s been getting harder,” she said.
The problem isn’t isolated to restaurants.
In Marion, convenience stores Casey’s and Ampride both sport help-wanted signs on E. Main St.
Casey’s advertises $11-an-hour pay. A manager directed questions Tuesday morning to a corporate office. No one from media relations returned an email.
Greg Carlson, co-owner of Carlsons’ Grocery, said staffing was steady at his store for now, but “it’s a struggle.”
The same is true at Subway, which he also co-owns.
Even offering $11-an-hour wages doesn’t help.
“I don’t know what the deal is,” he said. “It’s hard to pay that much.”
St. Luke Hospital is struggling to fill nursing and dietary aide positions, human resources director Sarah Miranda said.
“There’s just not a whole lot of individuals looking for jobs,” she said.
The unemployment rate in Marion County in June was 2.6%, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Unemployment rates in neighboring counties ranged from 2.1% in McPherson to 2.9% in Butler.
Marion’s hospital has offered sign-on bonuses for some positions. It also has a “grow your own” tuition reimbursement program for people who want to move up at the hospital.
Still, St. Luke has had a cook position open for almost a year, and “housekeeping kind of has that revolving door,” Miranda said.
St. Luke also needs medical lab and radiology technicians, she said.
Peabody-Burns schools are in “desperate need” of bus drivers, superintendent Antoinette Root said. The district cut one bus route and is using vans and staff to help get students to school.
The district also needs substitute teachers.
Hiring has been challenging the past three to five years for most positions — “everything from bus drivers to teachers,” Root said.
“We’re not getting any applications,” she said.