Businesses struggle

By: 
Alexis Barker

Alexis Barker

NLJ News Editor

 

Help wanted signs, business closures and stressed staff and owners have become normal in Newcastle over the past few months. 

At 3.8%, Weston County’s unemployment rate is the lowest in the state, meaning that it’s a worker’s market. Just 149 people who are members of the labor force in the county are without a job, according to the July 19 report from the Wyoming Department of Workforce Services Research and Planning. 

Lower unemployment rates mean a smaller labor pool for businesses struggling to fill positions. Add a pandemic and increased unemployment payments and you have a recipe for disaster. 

“It is killing us to close when we don’t have workers,” said Zach Rohde, owner of the West End Bar and Grill. “Bills still have to be paid, and you don’t have revenue coming in when you are closed. But on the other side, the few people we do have get burnt out. So we are limited on what we can do. We have to close down or cut the hours we are open.” 

And Rohde isn’t the only one feeling the pressure when it comes to lack of employees, Pennie Loebs with Wayback Burgers reported that the establishment also has limited hours on certain days due to a lack of employees. 

“We have been struggling the last three months or so, which is odd because usually there is summer help available, but this year there isn’t,” Loebs said. “We haven’t seen very many applicants and then getting people to actually come to work and stay working is a whole other issue.” 

Both Loebs and Rohde have experienced little to no applicants coming in, despite the help wanted signs in their windows. 

And when they do get employees, reliability is always a concern. 

“The unreliability. … They think they can tell you when they want to work. … They want to work when they want to, don’t give notice for time off, call in often and sometimes not at all,” Rohde said. 

Loebs has had similar experiences with individual employees who don’t show up, but she can’t fire them because there is no one else to fill the spot. 

“They are hard workers when they are here, but getting them here,” Loebs said. “That is the tricky part.” 

While not all employees are bad, both Rohde and Loebs said the good ones are hard to keep because of better-paying jobs and high unemployment payouts. 

“It is really hurting small businesses. We can’t pay high rates for someone to cook. It is hard to compete when you can make just as much on unemployment,” Rohde said. 

Loebs added that she has had several employees do what they refer to as “job hopping,” or working somewhere for a few weeks before moving to the next job. 

“They hear the pay is better or someone they know works somewhere else,” Loebs said. “So they change jobs, sometimes without notice.” 

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