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U.S. Added More Jobs But Manufacturers Struggle To Fill Those Positions


The Labor Department today released its monthly jobs report, and the unemployment rate dropped a tenth of a percent in July to 3.9. To get a sense of what that means on a human scale, we called up Cascade Rescue in rural Sandpoint, Idaho. The eight-person firm makes things like stretchers for ski patrols and helicopters. It's looking for two more welders and two more people in shipping and receiving. Company president Dana Jordan says those jobs have been open for quite a while now.

DANA JORDAN: There are very few employees available to hire right now. And...

CHANG: Yeah.

JORDAN: ...Those that don't have jobs either don't want them, or they are not hireable.

CHANG: Is the shortage of people - does it feel like it's related to the unemployment rate?

JORDAN: Oh, absolutely. It has never been more difficult to hire employees than it is right now in the 20 years that I've owned this company.

CHANG: Really? How long has it been hard, like the past couple of years?

JORDAN: Yeah, 2 1/2 to three, and seems to be getting progressively worse. We have a - something of a manufacturer's roundtable where business owners all get together and we, for lack of a better words, cry over our beers about the issues we have in hiring people and other things as well. But the general consensus is that the labor market here is so tight that we're forced to hire out of the area. One company, Quest Aircraft, actually has started their own bus line to run back and forth from here to Coeur d'Alene so that they can effectively import employees.

CHANG: How far away is that?

JORDAN: About 45 miles.

CHANG: And is that difficulty in finding people to hire - is it also affecting retention rates at your company? Are people also leaving for other jobs?

JORDAN: It does for some manufacturers. We have adopted a different model I guess than a lot of people or a lot of companies in the area who - we pay more for skilled labor. We also provide all of the usual benefits - medical, dental, vision, vacation time, sick time, personal time. We try to mix things up, make things a little more fun for folks, give them a little bit - more flexible working hours if they need it, family time if they need it. Everybody went river rafting last Thursday.

CHANG: (Laughter).

JORDAN: Paid day off, so - you know, just do some things to make sure that they're - they know they're appreciated and that we're grateful that they're here.

CHANG: One big takeaway from today's jobs report is that while the unemployment rate is low, wages have kind of remained stable. They haven't really increased. But are you trying to be different? Are you trying to attract people by increasing your pay?

JORDAN: We are. We have - especially over the last five years have increased our base wages and our top compensation dollars. But I don't know that we're the norm.

CHANG: All right, well, you're on national radio now. Do you want to make a pitch to the people out there for two high-skilled welders?

JORDAN: Yeah, absolutely. If you've got some great tig skills, give us a call. We'd love to talk to you.

CHANG: Dana Jordan is president of Cascade Rescue. Thank you very much.

JORDAN: You're welcome. Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.