TAUNTON — Business is good at the job-placement service Personnel People. But Lynda St. Andre is not happy.
“He hung up on me,” St. Andre says Monday, shaking her head as she puts down the phone at her office overlooking Taunton Green. “Do you want work or do you not?”
An applicant had just blown off an interview that was supposed to take place in 45 minutes. He’d told St. Andre that his tires were bald and he was getting new tires instead.
“There are so many jobs out there,” said St. Andre. “There’s absolutely no reason people aren’t working.”
A pulse-check of the labor market in and around Taunton shows that job openings remain plentiful as employers scramble to hire. The state reports Taunton’s unemployment rate stood at 5.7% as of November, the most recent month available. That’s down 3% from a year ago. Bristol County as a whole stood at 5.3%, higher than the state average of 4.8%. All those figures are not adjusted for seasonality.
The great resignation:Taunton-area employers are struggling with the labor shortage — here’s what they can do
Kris Silva, president and CEO of the Taunton Area Chamber of Commerce, said hiring and supply-chain difficulties are challenging for local business.
“Businesses have to be more competitive in recruiting and retention,” Silva said via teleconference on Monday. “People are leaving. Businesses have to work so hard on retention, they have to be flexible in the value-added benefits that they offer. It’s almost a job seeker’s market right now.”
That’s certainly what St. Andre has been seeing. Her mother, Jean Gustafson, founded the agency in 1980. St. Andre has worked there the last 22 years. Personnel People does both temporary and permanent placements, with an emphasis on warehouse, light industrial and jobs that require commercial driver’s licenses.
“It’s hard to place people right now,” St. Andre said. “I think people are looking for more than they’re worth.”
Even so, the COVID years have seen overall business grow for the 41 Taunton Green firm. She aims for one permanent placement per week. As of Tuesday, she’d already placed three.
Silva has ramped up the support the Chamber provides members for reaching applicants, launching a weekly jobs email in September. It began with eight employers using it, and is now up to 23. The most recent email featured jobs like fundraising coordinator for Taunton’s Homes For Our Troops, fiscal agent for the City of Taunton’s Office of Economic & Community Development and full-time welders at Babbco in Raynham.
The city of Taunton reports making 26 new hires in fiscal 2021 and 22 such hires so far in fiscal 2022, according to Amy Kazlauskas, director of human resources. She said the city is “doing very well” at filling open positions in a timely manner.
She said in a statement to the Gazette that Mayor Shaunna O’Connell’s administration has over the past two years worked hard to streamline procedures in hiring and other areas. Roughly a year ago, the city created a new hiring procedure aimed at streamlining staffing requests, she said.
“When staffing needs assessments are completed, the recruiting/hiring process begins, if appropriate,” Kazlauskas said. “At times the hiring process can be challenging as the city must follow rules and regulations of the Civil Service and Labor Service procedures for many City positions, for example Gardener Laborer, HVAC Technician and Tree Climber. This process is very extensive and does require a bit more time to complete the hiring process; however, the city is committed to filling all positions expeditiously.”
Taunton Public Schools, which hire independently of the city, report a “slower than normal fill rate” for positions, owing to sick outages from COVID and staff retirements, said Cheryl Butts, executive director of human resources for the system.
“To combat these issues, we have developed numerous programs aimed at increasing our recruitment efforts including our high school pathways program, offering increased mental and social-emotional support for our staff and increasing our hiring incentives for our substitutes and custodial substitutes,” Butts said in an email.
She said that a recent grant will allow TPS to offer sign-on bonuses and relocation incentives to help with diversification of its staff.
“With the creative approaches we have implemented in our hiring practices,” Butts wrote, “we hope to continue to attract new and diverse candidates to Taunton Public Schools.”
Back at Personnel People, recruiter Gorette Tibbetts has just returned with a cup of soup for St. Andre. She says that warehouse jobs people used to be happy to take at $15 or $16 an hour are tough to fill despite rates of $19 to $20 an hour.
“Get your resume out there,” Tibbetts said when asked what advice she gives job seekers. “And call back.”
Send your news tips to reporter Chris Helms by email at CHelms@tauntongazette.com. Support local journalism by purchasing a digital or print subscription to The Taunton Daily Gazette.