ZANESVILLE — Anyone who wants a job in Muskingum County has a pretty good chance of finding one. “There are a lot of available positions out there,” said Julie Metzger, the Ohio Means Jobs coordinator for Muskingum County. “Right now, in the 43701 area code, there are 955 available jobs” on the Ohio Means Jobs website. “If I go out a 30-mile radius, there are 5,200 positions available.”
“It is an interesting time,” said Dana Matz, president of the Muskingum County Chamber of Commerce. “We have record low unemployment, but we have record low employment fulfilment,” he said. There are a wide range of positions available, especially at the entry level, across a variety of industries. “Fast food to manufacturing to distribution, companies are having trouble filling positions.”
The unemployment rate in Muskingum County is currently 3.8%, Metzger said. “It was 4.6% last month, and 5.6% this time last year. Unemployment is low,” she said, “but it does feel like there is an available workforce out there, it is just them finding the right match for their skillset.”
Getting people to apply for jobs is just the first hurdle companies face, keeping them is another.
Bimbo Bakeries used to get about 900 applications for the 50 or so jobs it had open a year in Zanesvillle prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, said Joe Goldsmith, the interim director for Bimbo’s United States operations who oversees the company’s two Zanesville facilities. “Now we get a couple hundred of applications a year, and we are trying to interview every single one of them.”
People used to spend two or three years on a waiting list to get a job at the company. Now for every 100 hard-earned applicants, about seven will make it to the production floor. Many never show up for their first interview after submitting an application. Some show up for a shift and leave during their first break.
Turnover has skyrocketed too, he said. Typically the company has 50 to 60 people either join or leave the company. Last year about 175 joined or left, and so far this year, the company has hired 90, and 77 have left.
Kaitlyn Novaria, branch manager at North Valley Bank’s South Zanesville office, is having trouble filling an open position at her office. “We can’t find anybody anywhere,” she said. “We haven’t been able to keep anybody for the last year, since COVID hit.”
Just getting people to apply is a challenge, let alone keeping them, she said. And while it doesn’t affect operations very much, the company has been paying overtime since 2020. “My branch is looking for one person,” she said. One person may not seem like a lot, she said, but in a small office, “that one person makes a big difference.”
“You get adapted to it,” she said, but the company is still looking. That is a full-time job in a quiet, air-conditioned office the company is struggling to fill.
The struggle to hire full-time employees has affected the summer job market as well, said Metzger. “We are not really seeing a summer only position right now,” she said. “A lot times employers will bring people on during the summer but will hire them as a full-time position.”
With employers increasing willing to be flexible with hours and shifts, short term summer jobs are being turned into year-round jobs as companies bend to fit the schedule of high-school and college students, the usual benefactors of summer jobs.
“Our peak season is March through September,” Goldsmith said. “We could use 10 to 15 more floaters, but we can’t fill the summer help right now, I don’t think we have had one person apply for summer help,” he said.
Halliburton is hiring for a number of positions and shifts and, like many industries, faces challenges to keep up with business demand, said Chad Hanson, senior human resources partner for the company. Providing a variety of services to the energy industry, the company’s Zanesville location supports work in the Utica and Marcellus Shale area including Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia region.
“We mostly look for entry-level operators, where experience is preferred but not required. We are also hiring many field and facility-based roles, such as electronic engineers, electricians, mechanics and office staff,” Hanson said. The lack of applicants in the region has pushed recruitment as far away as the east coast, much of the Midwest and down south. “Finding people has been an all hands on deck commitment,” he said.
Because of the variety of schedules and opportunities available, “We often hire commuters who don’t live close to the work sites – you can really live anywhere,” Hanson said. Some workers may work a 14-day rotation, and then have the next one to two weeks off, he said. There are also many traditional schedules and rotations available, and a variety of schedules in between depending on the job.
“We offer a strong training and development program that includes industry specific and job specific training, a mentorship program, and numerous additional benefits,” Hanson said. “We have increased wages, and for many of the positions we pay for employees to get their Commercial Driver’s License.” One of the benefits of working for the company is its size and scope, Hanson added. The company has operations in 70 countries, giving employees opportunities to work close to home, domestically and internationally.
“We are constantly coming up with new ideas and solutions to find people” he said. “It’s not just your traditional job fair anymore — we work with high schools, trade schools, truck driving schools.” Just for the Zanesville and Northeast area alone (Ohio, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania), Halliburton would like to hire more than 100 people. The company has positions open in cementing, hydraulic fracturing, well completions amd drilling fluids, and is also looking for truck drivers.
“At the end of the day, a lot of people just don’t want to work,” said Goldsmith. “They don’t care as much about the financial part of it, they care more about time at home.”
Following COVID-19, potential workers decided not to return to work, with a large number of parents opting to stay at home with children because of the lack of child care or high child care costs. But a massive increase in the number of Baby Boomers retiring took a huge chunk out of the workforce, too Matz said. “We went from 2 million Boomers retiring to 3 million,” he said.
Meanwhile, companies like Bimbo and Halliburton are increasing benefits and scheduling flexibility to attract and keep workers. But they also have to battle every other employer for scarce employees.
“Every time I drive to Eastpointe I see a hundred signs advertising jobs,” Goldsmith said.
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