It's tough to walk into a business around Missoula and not see some sort of HELP WANTED sign. They're everywhere! I don't think I can remember the last time I was in a restaurant or grocery store that wasn't looking to hire. And we've seen plenty of places around town have to alter their hours because they're running on limited staff. It's crazy!

Where are all the workers?

I was at a restaurant a few weeks ago where one person was handling both roles of greeter and waiter - and they were the only person working the floor! The only other employee was cooking in the kitchen. As expected, it took way too long to get our food. After I watched a few people come in and then leave after not being helped in a timely matter, I asked the waiter what the deal was with the short staff. He said they've been advertising for help - but they hadn't had an application in 30 days!

I also had a conversation with the person that was pulling my grocery order when I went to pick it up the other day. He was telling me about how they were short on people, how they were pulling more orders than ever, and how they're hurting to find people to fill positions.

And I know childcare facilities are also hurting to find bodies. I was talking to someone that runs a daycare and they said it's amazing how many people have applied and set up interviews - but then don't even show up.

Why is there such a worker shortage?

I think we've all heard things like "people just don't want to work" or "they're making more on unemployment than they would if they working." A study from a local consulting company set out to come up with some answers as to why there are so many jobs that aren't being filled. A MontanaRightNow.com article goes deeper into the details - but lists part of the findings as: "they found that a lot of people left their jobs or were laid off earlier in the pandemic, and have either found new jobs, aren't looking for employment or moved to a different community to try and find new jobs."

What are other factors that are lending to the difficulty in finding employees? If you guessed housing costs and childcare options in Missoula, you would get the gold star. The study says high rent and lack of housing options are forcing workers to look for jobs in other places while dependable childcare is needed for parents to be able to return to the workforce. And to bring things full circle - the part I mentioned earlier about daycares not being able to find employees means they have to limit the number of kids they can enroll, and not enough spots for kids means some parents have to remain home and can't get back to work.

There are so many things that we're hoping will get back on track as we eventually get on the other side of COVID. Employers being able to find employees is just another thing on the list!

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