BOZEMAN — Hiring signs are everywhere in Bozeman right now, as well as throughout Gallatin County and beyond.
So what does this mean for for the future of the Gallatin Valley’s economy?
“I’ve never heard of anything like this before. We’re extremely busy. Nobody wants to work,” said Adam Paccione, owner of Red Tractor Pizza in Bozeman.
He says he and his employees are tired because they’re understaffed and resumes aren’t coming in.
“A lot of us aren’t getting days off right now, and we’re all working, you know, 10 to 12 hour days on top of that,” said Paccione.
Vincent Smith with Montana State University’s Initiative for Regulation and Applied Economic Analysis says this is an issue happening across the country.
“We’ve extended unemployment benefits for folks who lost their jobs during the pandemic, and we’ve increased the size of those benefits,” said Smith.
“That has tended to make it more difficult for industries where typically workers have earned relatively modest wages, to attract those workers back to the job.”
And now you’re seeing fast-food restaurants in Bozeman offering higher starting wages, like $17 per hour.
But Smith says some of our local businesses just can’t swing those higher wages.
So one of the basic laws of economics must run its course.
“What is likely to happen is that prices of goods sold by the small service industry companies that are particularly struggling, the prices they charge consumers are likely to have to go up,” said Smith.
But he adds the tight labor market within Gallatin County has deeper layers.
He says the unemployment rate in the valley is roughly 3%, about the same as it was in January 2020 before the pandemic.
“Bringing people into Bozeman who have relatively low incomes or the capacity only to earn relatively low incomes right now is very hard because of housing costs,” said Smith.
Smith predicts here in Gallatin County so long as housing costs continue to soar, this demand for service industry workers could persist.
As for Paccione at Red Tractor Pizza, he’s optimistic people will eventually get back to work—and in the meantime is grateful for his hardworking team.
“I have a good team. There’s not many of us at the moment, but we all work really hard,” said Paccione.
“These guys have my back, they have the restaurant's back. So we’re just gonna continue cranking out pizzas!”