Help Wanted Signs Everywhere In Eastern Iowa Indicate Big Problem
Where have all the workers gone? These days, it seems like you can't drive down a street with service-type businesses that you don't see 'Help Wanted' signs in nearly every window. Those businesses aren't the only ones having trouble finding workers and it appears it's a problem that only one thing can truly fix.
Last night, I drove an area of less than a half-mile on the northeast side of Cedar Rapids around Blairs Ferry and Edgewood Road. Nearly every business has signs advertising that workers are needed. (See the photos below) The one that really caught my eye was at Kwik Star where, as you can see above, they were offering a $500 sign-on bonus. A nearby Wendy's food restaurant is now open 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday and is closed on Sunday while a nearby tire store is now closed the last two Saturdays of each month.
It's not just a problem in the Cedar Rapids metro. Juan Hernandez, an Executive Chef at Twin Span Brewing in the Quad Cities, says his restaurant has only about 25 percent of the workers they'd like to have. They're looking to hire at least 12 people.
Western Illinois restaurant owner John Hoffman believes part of the problem is the additional $300 those getting unemployment are currently eligible for, as part of COVID-19 relief. He told WQAD,
Our biggest struggle right is trying to find people that are willing and able to work. It's offering more people the opportunity to stay home. In a way, we can't blame them, but at the same time, we have to be responsible with money.
According to CNET, the $300 weekly bonus check for those that are unemployed is scheduled to end on September 6.
The Iowa Business Council (IBC) sees a much larger problem in the Hawkeye State... the number of people. According to Iowa Capital Dispatch, Iowa's population estimate went from 3,156,145 in 2018 to 3,155,070 in 2019. That's not what you want to see when you're looking to grow businesses in the state. The United States Census Bureau will release 2020 numbers later this year.
During a February news conference, IBC Executive Director Joe Murphy announced,
It’s bordering on a crisis with respect to the population. A healthy state is a growing state. As businesses look to expand in Iowa, they can only do so with respect to the available workforce here in the state.
A visit to Indeed.com shows 3,974 jobs available in Cedar Rapids, 2,125 of them full-time. In Marion, businesses are looking to fill more than 300 jobs. It's a good time to be hunting for a job but for businesses, it's a nightmare. It appears the only real fix is more people in the state. Unfortunately, that's not an easy problem to remedy.