We’ve all seen the signs, they’re practically everywhere. “Help Wanted” or “Now Hiring”. A high number of businesses have a sign saying something similar to one of these messages.  

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And it’s likely you’ve heard someone say, “no one wants to work anymore”. But is that really the case? 

After seeing these signs everywhere, it got me thinking, why are so many businesses looking for help? Why can’t they find the workers they need? Unemployment is really low right? 

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I contacted DEED, the Minnesota Department Employment and Economic Development, and posed some questions answered by Luke Greiner, the Labor Market analyst for Central Minnesota.  

With unemployment so low, where are people who aren’t working making their money from?  

Luke says that unemployment in the Central Region is 3.1%, which is the second lowest average in the last two decades. Which also means that many people are either working for an employer or for themselves (door dash, uber, or similar side hustle opportunities).  

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That also means there aren’t as many people looking for work as before. Luke says that the labor force is smaller by almost 2,300 people than it was in 2019. For example, if a person leaves a job to retire, they are considered a reduction in the labor force.  

DEED does not have a way to disaggregate between working for a company and someone who is working for themselves. Luke says that most of the people who left the labor force in 2020 were 55 years old or older, and their income is coming mainly from retirement and social security. 

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How many people do not show up as “unemployed” because they are working a “side hustle”.  

Luke says that these people are still factored into the unemployment statistics because of the previous statement about not defining employment and self-employment into different categories. Those who appear in the “unemployed” category have been looking for work in the last four weeks.  

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This number can also contain people who are waiting to start a job, those who have just been laid off, or those still in the interview process. 

What is the estimated number of Central Minnesota workers that are working a second job?  

Luke says that normally there are a good number of residents in Central Minnesota that work multiple jobs, but that trend has been on the decline in recent years.  

Luke shared an article written by Dave Senf of DEED which says that the number of those working more than one job spiked between April 2020 and October of 2022, but the number as said before has gone down since October 2022.  

That said, the article also says that due to inflation rate, real wages decreasing, and pandemic savings diminishing, since April of 2020 an estimated 2.1 million people are working more than one job to meet the daily needs.  

One thing that the article doesn’t discuss is the fact that some people during the pandemic adjusted their spending and paid off debt during that time period which doesn’t require them to work a second job because they reduced how much they’re spending each month. I know several people who say they did this during the pandemic. 

On that topic, the article does say that the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) uses what is called the Current Population Survey (CPS) which helps in setting the estimates in multiple job holding, but no state has a specific more detailed focus on this topic because the number of households that are interviewed nationally is too small to give reliable statistics.

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What are the biggest challenges job seekers are facing right now? 

Luke says that the biggest issue job seekers are up against right now isn’t a new issue, and that is simply the expectations job seekers have versus the skillset they possess. 

DEED does offer “CareerForce”, which helps those looking for work to determine eligibility for training and education that will help them become prepared for new opportunities.  

For those who lost their job due to no fault of their own, there is tuition assistance they could be eligible for. There is also free training available through the “Dislocated Worker Program”.  

Certain companies are offering training to prospective employees as well, which may be something those who are looking for a better situation should consider when looking for work. 

What are Employers doing to attract better candidates and are those incentives working?

Some of the thing's companies are doing to fill the positions they have open is improving their hiring process and adjusting some of their requirements for those positions, for example minimum education or experience in that position.  

Flexible scheduling seems to be important to workers, which is something some employers are trying to accommodate for when possible.  

Childcare is a major issue for families in America, and there are certain companies who are offering childcare assistance or maybe even housing assistance as the affordability of housing has continued to increase as well.  

Is there help for employers who want to offer better incentives for their workers? 

If you are an owner or manager who wants to try to be more attractive to prospective employees, the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development has rolled out a two-year pilot program for small to mid-size companies to see some reimbursement for reasonable accommodations that are made for applicants or employees with disabilities.  

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Also, a $167,500 grant was given to Tri County Action Program in Waite Park called “Getting to Work” that helps companies repair or maintain transportation for workers who are 22 and older that are economically challenged. Having reliable transportation is one of the biggest hurdles of getting to interviews or being able to consistently get to work.  

There is also The Office of New Americans whose members help connect open jobs with immigrants who could potentially fill those positions.  

There are CareerForce offices across Minnesota that can help employers identify workers they’re not getting exposed to currently, as well as help those trying to find work become aware of companies they may be a good fit for.  

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There will be an open house and job fair in St. Cloud at the CareerForce office, 1542 Northway Drive- Door 2, on Tuesday March 12 from 10am-4pm. In addition to helping job seekers find available jobs, this event will help improve candidates interviewing skills, review and improve their resume and take a LinkedIn headshot.  


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