The 'dirty' side to low unemployment

The average unemployment rate for the United States is between 4-5%.

In November of 2018, Cascade County saw an unemployment rate of 3.4%. 

While this is considered good news, it’s actually creating some problems.

The reason for this is because there are so many job opportunities, not only in Cascade County, but across Montana, that people don’t really want to apply for ‘dirtier’ jobs such as janitorial or maintenance positions.

Currently, Montana has roughly 20,000 unemployed, meaning here in Cascade County, we have anywhere between 1,000-1,200 people without a job.

With such a low unemployment rate, businesses are struggling to fill those lower wage jobs.  

“When unemployment rates get that low and we have a tight labor market, it often is the lowest wage jobs that have the hardest time filling. And part of the reason for that is because higher wage jobs, there’s always somebody willing to move up in responsibilities and take a step up the career ladder,” explained Barbara Wagner, Chief Economist of Montana Dept. of Labor & Industry.

Another part of the issue is the retirement of the baby boomer generation.

Barbara further explained that if we were to gather every eligible young worker across the nation, we still wouldn’t have enough people to fill the number of jobs baby boomers are leaving.

As a result, businesses are now starting apprenticeship programs and schools are allowing dual enrollment to fast track youth into the workforce.

Business owners are also becoming more open-minded in an effort to attract and retain employees; such as allowing more flexible work schedules, better benefits, and employing individuals with disabilities.

These kinds of business methods would allow individuals who wouldn’t typically be able to get a job, such as a stay at home caretaker, to be employed and receive an income.

However, it’s important to remember the good with the bad.

Low unemployment also means a stronger economy and higher wage jobs across the board. 

In the end, businesses will simply have to appreciate the stronger economy while also adapting and overcoming the lower wage worker shortage. 

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