With the economy in California opened back up, businesses throughout the region are finding it difficult to attract employees. Nevada and Placer counties are among the counties with some of the lowest unemployment rates, according to recent numbers released for May from the Employment Development Department, but attracting workers has been, in some cases, difficult. Placer County ranked fifth in the state with an unemployment rate of 4.9%. Nevada County sits 12th in the state with an unemployment rate of 5.4%. The two counties have a combined workforce of approximately 229,650 people, of which 11,580 are unemployed. Compared to May 2020, Nevada County had a 13.1% unemployment rate; while Placer County had a 12.4% unemployment rate. While unemployment rates in the area are among the lowest in the state, “Help Wanted” signs and online job openings can be found throughout the region. Truckee Jobs Collective’s list of job positions, ranging from cashier associate for Mountain Hardware and Sports to architectural project manager for MWA, Inc., features more than 50 positions that have been added in the past two weeks.
Additionally, job search sites like Indeed.com show more than 300 openings within the past two weeks for the Truckee-Tahoe region. “Everyone is understaffed,” said Alibi Ale Works Manager Martin Cavada, who blamed the rental and housing market for the lack of a local workforce. “Almost every day, I feel like I hear of a local being evicted because it’s either getting sold or turning over into an Airbnb. There’s a lack of employees everywhere.” The lodging and hospitality region has also faced its share of challenges. “There have been new challenges,” said Aurora Moore, senior recruiting manager at Vacasa, which manages a number of the North Tahoe and Truckee area short term rentals. “This year, with staffing (issues) across the hospitality and service industries, due in large part to pandemic-related factors, but there’s also been record demand for vacation rentals, which is opening up new positions that need to be filled.” Moore said occupancy in the area is on track to be up 45% compared to 2019, “even with homeowners using their vacation properties more and fewer nights available for guests.” Moore added that the company has hired 65 team members in the Truckee-Tahoe area, but still has roughly 50 open positions. She also said there are more open positions than in previous years, but that higher demand for vacation rentals should also be factored in. CALIFORNIANS FLOCK TO SIERRA
A March report from California Policy Lab found that Nevada County led the state in the number of new residents in 2020, increasing by 31.% compared to the year prior. “While a mass exodus from California clearly didn’t happen in 2020, the pandemic did change some historical patterns. For example, fewer people moved into the state to replace those who left,” said author Natalie Holmes, a research fellow at the California Policy Lab and a graduate student at the Goldman School of Public Policy at UC Berkeley, in a news release. “At the county level, however, San Francisco is experiencing a unique and dramatic exodus, which is causing 50% or 100% increases in Bay Area in-migration for some counties in the Sierra. According to Jess Carr, associate director of the Sierra Small Business Development Council with the Sierra Business Council, there are a number of creative ways businesses can work to meet hiring needs. One area the council advises in is “planning around that scarcity,” whether that means adjusting existing business hours, or workshopping internal training issues, said Carr. “A lot of our brick-and-mortar businesses, be it retail or restaurant, are struggling to hire enough people to now open at full capacity,” said Carr. Although the Sierra Business Council is based in Truckee, its services extend to businesses in Placer, El Dorado, Sierra, Modoc, Lassen, and Plumas counties, in addition to Nevada County. Carr said it is not easy to identify a single reason for the hiring challenges many businesses are experiencing. “I think that a lot of people have ideas about why that is, but it does seem to me personally to be a conglomeration of a number of different things that are coming to a head — COVID-19, lack of childcare, lack of affordable housing, lack of great benefits in some cases,” said Carr. Carr said the organization connects people with other local resources, such as the Truckee Jobs Collective or the Alliance for Workforce Development. “Those are things we can help connect the dots for with the businesses, but from our perspective, what we can mostly help with is more creative business planning,” Carr said. The Alliance for Workforce Development, whose Nevada County offices are at 988 McCourtney Road in Grass Valley and 10075 Levon Drive in Truckee, works with both employers and people seeking employment. Its upcoming events for July, for example, include online workshops on successful interviewing and resume building. The Sierra Small Business Development Council, said Carr, is also happy to offer its free services to businesses that need them. “There are resources out there right now for businesses that are in need,” said Carr. “There are still COVID-related resources, and then there are new things popping up every day, so call us if you need help.” Justin Scacco is a reporter for the Sierra Sun. The Union reporter Victoria Penate contributed to this report. This story first published July 15 and is republished here with permission.