Carnes: Jobs aplenty, employees afew in the Vail Valley; how will that impact service? (column)
July 9, 2018
"I'm afraid we can't do the landscaping job for you, Mr. Carnes."
What? Why not? My atheist dollars have the same value as yours. This is bull —
"No, no, no, it's not that. It's because we don't have enough workers to properly do the job."
As I write this on Sunday, July 8, there are 272 listings for jobs in our area.
With many — if not most — offering more than one position available, this means, in my admittedly debatable math, there is somewhere in the neighborhood of a thousand or so jobs for Happy Valleyites to choose from at the moment.
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Problem is, however, there's nowhere near a thousand or so individuals looking for work at the moment.
The July Fourth holiday week made this abundantly clear, as I saw help-wanted signs from East Vail to Gypsum and everywhere between.
Restaurants, bars, retail shops: They all appear to be short at least a few staff members.
Golf courses, painters, the aforementioned landscapers and even the post office are looking for bodies to fill spots.
Hell, just Vail Resorts, all by its little self, has current listings for more than 200 jobs in Eagle County.
But before you get your knickers in a twist thinking I'm about to find fault with low unemployment, relax, as my concern is service and how it affects our overall reputation as a high-end resort area.
When restaurant service is slow because there's not enough staff to handle the number of guests at any particular moment, it not only looks bad for the restaurant but for the valley as a whole, and it impacts locals and guests alike. The locals become frustrated because they're doing extra work and might not be receiving extra benefits, and of course, the guests become frustrated because they're paying premium prices and not necessarily receiving premium service.
The H-2B visa nonimmigrant program, which permits employers to hire foreign workers on a seasonal basis, has played a huge role in this year's debacle. Although last winter's omnibus spending bill nearly doubled the number of visas allowed, local landscapers, for example, have received the short end of a long stick and have been forced to cancel jobs.
Most businesses had a less-than-stellar winter due to poor snow conditions. Most businesses are looking at a less-than-stellar summer due to fire conditions. Both declines are due to situations beyond our control, and in the meantime, there's not enough workers to fill current demand, yet demand is currently declining.
More workers would mean more filled positions, yet fewer customers mean fewer workers are needed, at least for the time being. And, of course, more workers mean more housing needed, and more housing cannot be built without more workers who would need better pay to afford said housing, and the dominoes continue their never-ending fall from there.
Such is our Happy Valley's never-ending conundrum.
Let's just keep our collective fingers crossed for heavy dumps beginning in November.
Richard Carnes, of Avon, writes weekly. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.