Brockton – By the late summer of 2021, a national labor shortage had hit everywhere in the country, and the Brockton region was no exception.
From manufacturing to restaurants to landscaping, business owners in the Brockton area have been having trouble finding applicants, and even more difficult getting anyone to turn up on their first day of work.
At the time, Brockton was among the municipalities with the highest unemployment rate in the state, at 8.5%, according to state data. Just three months later, in November 2021, that rate had dropped to 7.2%, meaning that many people in Brockton were taking jobs.
But even as more people in Brockton and across the state take on new jobs, there are still industries where labor shortages are severe.
According to state data, nearly 1,200 fast food jobs opened in Brockton last year. At the same time, more than half of the workers in these jobs have left the industry or moved to another job within the industry.
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Similarly, more than 600 home health and personal assistant jobs opened in Brockton in the past year, but more than 60% of people in those positions either left the industry or moved on to another job within the industry.
The peak of the exodus of cashiers and retail positions, with nearly 500 of each type of jobs opening in Brockton in the past year, while about 80% of workers in those positions either changed positions in the industry or left the industry.
Then there are the individual small businesses that are personally feeling inferior.
Scramble to fill positions
Last August, Philip Yaitanes, owner of Yaitanes Landscaping in Stoughton, said he had placed ads for landscaping jobs, both free and paid, on a lot of websites in the past five months, but had only had two applicants, and neither had returned. his invitations. He said he had to turn down customers daily as a result.
In the end, Yaitannis said, he simply stopped trying to hire anyone for the season, agreed to fewer landscaping jobs and got less income.
“I thought when unemployment benefits run out people will start asking for jobs, but that didn’t happen,” he said.
Yitanis said he has already had to pay more workers in the past few years with the minimum wage increasing each year. It’s now priced at $14.25 in Massachusetts as of January 1, 2022.
“I hear that with lower-paying jobs, people quit, so you have to pay more for less work,” he said.
Yitanis said he had to raise his prices so he could offer higher wages and attract new workers.
Come March, when landscaping season begins again, it will rehire full-time landscaping workers again. He didn’t come up with any new ideas for employment, so he said he simply hoped for the best.
“No one wanted to work this year,” he said. “Hopefully there will be a change in 2022.”
But landscaping isn’t the only industry still affected by a labor shortage.
Existing employees fill the void – but at a high cost
Larry Sawyer, based in Stoughton, is CEO of The League School of Greater Boston in Walpole – a private school for special education for young people with autism. The school currently serves 102 students as young as 7 and up to 22 years old, and provides residential services in addition to education.
Sawyer said he has been hiring in a range of positions, from resident staff to assistant teachers to special education teachers, and currently has 20 open positions. But he said that despite his best efforts, he had difficulty filling these positions, especially those for resident staff.
“The residential section is not fully staffed, which is not unusual in the industry,” he said. “It’s always been like that difficult position for sale, But the epidemic has already worsened. These are some of the entry-level positions, low-paying positions, so filling them has become very difficult at this time.”
Sawyer said the school’s resident employee positions start at $17.95 an hour, which is a higher wage than many similar jobs in the industry, but that’s currently not enough to attract workers.
Particularly with restaurants and other low-wage industries raising wages to attract workers due to staff shortages, he said, some potential employees would prefer to work with catering or in retail rather than children with special needs.
“There is a lot of competition in this field, and working with children with special needs is not a job for everyone,” he said. “It can be tough. Sometimes our students can be aggressive, so it takes the right person to fill the positions.”
It’s also hard to find licensed teachers, especially for special education teachers, Sawyer said, as the school can’t compete with public schools on salaries and pensions.
So far, Sauer has tried to offer hiring bonuses to employees who refer new workers, login bonuses, and increased ads, but nothing has worked.
“We’re really trying everything we can think of to get people to come in,” he said.
Now, Sawyer said, the school is looking at increasing other benefits, such as tuition reimbursement for college classes, in an effort to smooth the deal.
So far, he said, the school has been able to maintain staff-to-student ratios, but that has been very difficult to do, especially when staff are sick with the coronavirus and have to go on vacation for weeks.
As a result, the existing resident employees had to work a lot of overtime, which puts them under stress.
“When the pandemic started, we closed our school for five months and taught remotely, but the dorms were open all the time. So [residential staff] I didn’t get any kind of relief.”
“They have already done a heroic deed during this time.”
At this point, all Sauer and Yaitanes can do is try to think of new ways to attract workers and hope for the best.
Enterprise Staff Clerk Susannah Sudborough can be reached via email at email@example.com. You can follow her on Twitter at Tweet embed. Support local journalism by purchasing a digital or print subscription to The Enterprise today.