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Worker shortage forcing Billings businesses to adjust

Posted at 8:34 AM, Feb 09, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-09 10:34:01-05

BILLINGS — From restaurants to tech companies, businesses nationwide are struggling to find employees, and Billings is no exception. The “Great Resignation” continues to take a huge toll on the community.

“The worker shortage, everyone’s feeling it,” said David Schaer, president of Computers Unlimited.

Montana's unemployment rate was 2.5 percent in December, which is among the lowest rates ever recorded for the state. The low rate means fewer people are available for jobs, leaving businesses scrambling to find help.

Even mom-and-pop grocery stores like Poly Food Basket on Billings West End are experiencing a hiring crisis. The store now closes nightly at 6 p.m. due to staffing shortages.

“It’s been really challenging to be able retain developers or actually any position, especially with the way the world how it works right now where you can work at home,” Schaer said.

According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, more than 47 million workers quit their jobs in 2021. Retail jobs, and education and health services are suffering more than others. There are currently more unfilled job positions than unemployed, experienced workers in their respective lines of work.

As Schaer said, remote work has changed the game.

“With COVID it kind of changed all the rules, so now basically anyone can be working at home and now they have global reach for their skill set,” said Schaer.

According to Gallup, 91% of American workers want to continue working from home for at least some portion of the day. Three out of 10 workers said they would look for new employment if they couldn’t work from home.

“Every day we’re seeking for new recruits,” Schaer said.

Computers Unlimited, which is based in Billings, has about 10 positions that need to be filled. They’ve decided to cast a wider net to recruit more employees.

“Now we have actually developers and employees in Canada, of course here in the US, throughout the country,” said Schaer.

Billings restaurants aren’t able to do that, but they too have had to make adjustments. Village Inn Pizza on Grand Avenue now only services take-out orders. Many fast-food chains are resorting to drive-thru services only.

“It’s challenging but it really forces you to say, we have limited resources, how do we move forward?” Schaer said.