Farm Bureau - Melissa Wheeler

The North Bend Eagle


Statewide, local workers hard to come by

by Mary Le Arneal
Published 9/1/21

Nebraska’s unemployment rate is 2.6%, as Gov. Pete Ricketts wrote in last week’s Eagle. That’s the lowest rate for Nebraska in 21 years and the second lowest rate of any state in the nation.

Hiring sign
A sign in the window of a downtown business tells the tale of low unemployment in Nebraska. North Bend has felt the drought of workers also.

But when you’re looking for new employees, a low unemployment rate isn’t necessarily a good thing. A stroll around North Bend and Morse Bluff is going to show “Help wanted” signs on many doors. Those openings are not being filled, leaving some businesses no choice but to shorten hours and reduce services.
In the past few weeks there have been a number of ads for jobs in the Eagle.

Pam Shaw just pulled her ad for help at the Bottom Road Bar this week as she has not had any capable applications.

“This was unusual,” Shaw said in comparing her hiring practices to pre-pandemic times. “We had kids all summer– they are willing to work. But now they are back in school and their activities, and we need older workers.”

Despite the open positions, the Bottom Road has maintained its regular hours.

“I treat my employees right,” Shaw said of the employees who do work for her.
Lori Bunn cut hours at Gambino’s Pizza when the pandemic started, closing between lunch and dinner time. She has stayed with that schedule because she does not have the workers to fill those missing hours.

Both Shaw and Bunn say it has been tough to compete with additional unemployment benefits and stimulus checks instituted when the pandemic was closing many businesses.

“Now everyone is paid to stay home,” Bunn said. “Between unemployment and COVID payments, they make more money not working.”

Jeff Alderson has a sign on the door of the North Bend Mini Mart saying he is hiring. There have been no applicants.

Alderson has found hiring incentives don’t work. He does give bonuses every pay period to people who show up to work their assigned shifts consistently for two weeks, as he has for a number of years.

“We value full-time people and they get bonuses for being consistent,” Alderson said. “There has been a decrease in elderly applicants. I’m not sure if they want to get back in a public setting because of COVID.”

Mini Mart hours have been reduced and Alderson is considering doing it again, closing earlier on Sunday evenings. He said it’s hard to get weekend workers and people don’t go out that much Sunday evening.

“It’s not what we want to do,” Alderson said. “It’s what we have to do.”

He is unsure when the shift came in labor. Larger retail stores in larger towns like Fremont have added delivery and pick up, creating more positions.

“The bigger companies in retail were paying more than we could ever attempt to,” Alderson said. “People are chasing wages.”

Alderson said he can’t say that the government is causing the shortage of people looking for work.

“There has always been people who want to work and those that don’t,” he said.

Mitch Staiger at Medicine Man Pharmacy said bigger companies can offer higher starting wages and more benefits, but working in a small town also has a lot to offer.

Right now, Medicine Man is short staffed and has had to adjust their employees’ schedules to cover everything. And they are looking for help.

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