Small businesses struggle to find workers

SPOKANE CO. Wash. –The pandemic left millions of people without a job as the U.S. unemployment rate, at one point, reached 14 percent.

The latest report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows it’s at six percent. However, local businesses are having a tough time finding some of those workers.

Emily Himmelright is experiencing that. She works in administration and finance for LINC Foods, a local Inland Northwest farm to table cooperative. It works with local farms to bring boxes of fresh farm food to people across Spokane.

Himmelright normally doesn’t work in the warehouse, but she’s had to help out in the past year because they’re in need.

“We’ve had an ad out for nearly a month and we’ve had two partial applications,” she told 4 News Now.

That’s unusual for LINC Foods. Before the pandemic, they had a good pool of applicants.

“We’d usually have a stack of, you know, 10 or more resumes, cover letters and we interview at least three people. This has been a surprise to all of us that it’s been so slow this time around,” Himmelright said.

The Spokane Independent Metro Business Alliance (SIMBA) says shops and restaurants adapted to pandemic-era business, where there were shorter business hours and fewer people. Now, that’s changing.

“There’s a huge amount of pent up demand to get going again, of course, since everyone’s had to make big adjustments. We’re seeing right now an explosion in hiring,” said Mariah McKay, the director of SIMBA.

Places like Global Neighborhood Thrift are seeing a boost in business. But, it’s tough to keep up as they can’t find workers.

It’s a different story there, as the thrift store normally hires former refugees and immigrants. The nonprofit business wanted to help give people with language and cultural barriers a place to work.

However, since the previous administration’s decided to lower the intake of refugees, there have been fewer refugees coming to Spokane and America. It’s created a ripple effect for Global Neighborhood Thrift.

“We’re employing people who can’t work at other places. We can always find people to work. It takes a little bit more effort on our part to go out and seek those people out right now,” said Brent Hendricks, the executive director of Global Neighborhood Thrift.

In previous hires for Himmelright at LINC Foods, she believed word of mouth played a big part in that. However, it hasn’t been as easy when people can’t socialize like they did before.

Business still goes on despite not being able to find as many workers. Local shops and restaurants are starting to see that increase in revenue and activity on the path forward. They just hope they’ll be able to find more people willing to help them soon.

“People who are finishing up their unemployment and looking to get back into the work force have a lot of choices right now,” McKay added.

SIMBA does have its members job listings on its website. Click here to check out what positions are open and where.