Owatonna area businesses are revamping their operations to address employee shortages and meet demands on their business. A recent survey conducted by the Owatonna Area Chamber of Commerce & Tourism (OACCT) of its members indicate that 60% of respondents have increased overtime and 48% have decreased production because of lack of workers.
Sixty-two percent (62%) of survey respondents indicate it takes them over 6 weeks to fill their job openings.
“These survey results reflect back what we hear from our members about the challenges they are facing with the severe workforce shortages happening right now,” said Brad Meier, President of the Owatonna Area Chamber of Commerce & Tourism. “Many business leaders are making the difficult decisions to turn away work simply because they don’t have enough help to get the jobs done.”
When asked what is contributing to the current labor shortages, two clear answers emerged: expanded unemployment benefits and a small labor pool. In fact, 83% of respondents believe the expanded unemployment benefits of $300 per week are a reason for the labor woes. The expanded unemployment benefits are scheduled to end in September 2021.
“Cannot possibly compete with state and federal handouts,” said one of the survey respondents.
Another 60% of businesses believe the small number of available people to work is another part of the workforce challenges. In fact, the unemployment rate in Steele County has dropped down to 3.5% or 697 people in May 2021.
“We need a larger labor pool to source from. Increased housing for employees early in their career is limiting the number of people staying or coming to the Owatonna area” said one of the survey respondents.
Sixty-three percent (63%) of survey responses said they get between 0 and 3 applicants for each opening they have at their business and 74% say the quality of applicant is lower than pre-covid.
“The issues businesses in the Owatonna area are facing are not unique to Owatonna,” said Meier. “In fact, labor shortages due to a variety of factors are seen in cities all across the Midwest.”
Eleven different business segments were represented in the survey responses including: agriculture, arts/communication, construction, education, health care, hospitality, manufacturing, professional services, retail, transportation/warehousing, and other.