Romer: Workforce shortages and the impact on our community
Right now, there are too many jobs without people to fill them. As a result, businesses are struggling to grow, compete and thrive.
The worker shortage crisis continues to cause major headaches for small businesses across the country, and a recent U.S. Chamber of Commerce and MetLife poll finds that hiring challenges are causing the majority of small business owners to change the way they recruit and retain employees. A majority (60%) of small businesses say they have implemented new changes over the past year to improve employee retention. Local businesses in Eagle County are no different as most national trends are elevated in Colorado’s resort communities. We know our challenge is primarily driven by a lack of attainable, affordable housing.
While job growth has been strong in the past year, the country is moving in the wrong direction for labor force participation. If the percentage of people participating in the labor force was the same as in February 2020, we would have nearly 3 million more people in the workforce today. Eagle County’s labor force participation rate is 82%, well above the national average.
This data clearly shows our challenge is that we do not have enough people to fill the jobs that exist — jobs across industry sectors that help keep our community strong and vibrant. The evidence is clear: We must grow our workforce if we want to grow our economy and stay competitive. Public policy must work to address the community challenges created by worker shortages by working together to create new housing supply and addressing our cost-of-living barriers (including early childhood care and health insurance).
Lest you think that this only impacts businesses, the fact is, the workforce shortage has a significant impact on communities. The lack of people to fill our jobs affects the local economy, access to goods and services, and quality of life. Potential impacts of a workforce shortage include:
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Reduced economic activity
When there aren’t enough workers to fill jobs, businesses may struggle to stay open or expand, which can lead to a decrease in economic activity. This can have ripple effects throughout the community, including lower tax revenue for local governments, reduced job opportunities for residents, and a slower pace of development. And we need housing development to mitigate the workforce shortage.
A workforce shortage can lead to higher prices for goods and services, as businesses may need to pay higher wages or offer other incentives to attract workers. This can make it more difficult for residents, especially those on fixed incomes, to afford necessities like food and housing.
Reduced access to services
In areas where there is a significant workforce shortage, it may be difficult for residents to access essential services like health care, education and public transportation. This can be particularly challenging for vulnerable populations, such as the elderly or those with disabilities.
We are committed to listening to and collaborating with the business community to provide the most relevant, timely, and innovative programming available. Vail Valley Partnership is addressing the immediate challenge of filling open jobs now and helping build the workforce of tomorrow through our Vail Valley Works initiative. This program is mobilizing businesses and government to help address the workforce challenge by creating professional development programs, work-based learning, nonprofit resources, diversity, equity, inclusion and mental wellness initiatives.
The workforce shortage has far-reaching impacts on communities, and local governments, businesses and other stakeholders need to work together to find solutions that address this challenge.
Chris Romer is president & CEO of Vail Valley Partnership, the regional chamber of commerce. Learn more at VailValleyPartnership.com.