Labor shortage adds to economic hardship for Gardner area business owners
GARDNER — The nationwide labor shortage has created a disparity between unqualified applicants and the search for qualified candidates for companies across greater Gardner.
Since the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, local employers have struggled to find people who match their job requirements.
“One of the problems that many businesses face is that they can’t find qualified candidates,” said Michael Gerry, executive director of the Greater Gardner Chamber of Commerce. “I see a real disparity between diplomas and candidates.”
In June, the national unemployment rate was 3.6% compared to last year’s rate of 5.46% and more than 10% two years ago. Last month, unemployment fell to 3.5% in Massachusetts from a pandemic-fueled peak of 17.1% in April 2020, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
As such, recruiting workers is more difficult than before.
Gardner has grown over the years as a dormitory community for people traveling to Fitchburg and other major cities in the greater Gardner area. This change resulted in the loss of several manufacturing companies, Gerry said.
“I think people are now aware of the cost of travel,” he said, “so I think [the commuters] certainly looking to work closer to home or remotely, making it difficult to find qualified people in the area. »
Last week, U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren visited Gardner to participate in a roundtable on the economy and federal relief measures. The labor shortage was on the minds of most local business owners.
Tina Sbrega, president of Lighthouse Biz Solutions, a subsidiary of GFA Federal Credit Union, said several businesses in the area — especially restaurants — were still on the verge of closing due to the current labor shortage. .
“I don’t know if anyone has the answer to that, but I think the realization is that there’s still a lot of struggle out there,” she said, “and I’m sure you are very aware of that.”
After:Senator Elizabeth Warren discusses labor shortages and childcare issue in Gardner
Another local businesswoman, Patti Bergstrom, owner of The Velvet Goose and president of Gardner Square Two, said the closure has been very difficult for her small business.
“We went from three employees plus myself to one-third employee plus myself,” Bergstrom said. “But as tough as the last two years have been, it’s tougher now than it’s ever been.”
Gardner’s large business community has always faced the challenge of inflation. But inflation coupled with supply chain disruptions and labor shortages can make troubling conditions worse, Gerry said.
“A lot of these issues are related to the declining workforce, which breaks the flow of the labor chain,” he said. “Government regulation and taxation are obviously always a bone of contention with business owners, but I think it’s part of day-to-day business.”