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'Help Wanted:' Job postings 'higher than ever' across Gallatin Valley

Businesses say open positions outweigh applicants
Posted at 3:02 PM, Sep 24, 2019
and last updated 2019-09-24 17:02:49-04

According to workforce leaders across Gallatin County, there are more ‘Now Hiring’ signs out there than ever before.

From window-shopping in Downtown Bozeman to going to a restaurant in Belgrade or Manhattan, ‘Now Hiring’ or ‘Help Wanted’ signs are easy to find, especially when school starts back up.

But according to the Bozeman Area Chamber of Commerce, more spaces than in years past are being left open, and there are several reasons why.

“We’re always looking for good people, especially as school season rolls around," says Lavonce Long, regional manager of Five on Black in Bozeman.

From chains to locally owned businesses, many are starting to have something in common -- signs indicating open positions for hire.

But with places like Downtown Bozeman always drawing in more people, restaurants like Five on Black don’t let it slow them down.

“We’ve got some people coming in from some of our more remote locations like our Missoula stores, really just to show people how things are done," Long says.

To them, this sign is a sign of its own.

“There’s an issue with service jobs in Bozeman where everyone really just wants to dive into their specialty with MSU right down the street, and you can feel it at all service positions, not just restaurants," Long says.

“It isn’t just the service industry, it’s across the board," says Daryl Schliem, president and CEO of the Bozeman Area Chamber of Commerce.

Schliem has been watching the numbers -- or lack thereof -- closely.

“We looked at three different things that are affecting our workforce, as a whole," Schliem says. "One is workforce housing. One is going to be quality daycare and the other is adequate transportation.”

A three-tiered stool of issues.

“You could try to solve one and say, well, we could build more affordable apartments, more workforce housing, more workforce homes but that still doesn’t bring in the availability currently in our community," Schliem says.

One can spend only spent a few minutes on, a popular site for everyone to go to, looking for jobs, including in this area in Bozeman before they view hundreds of open jobs.

The list goes well above 2,000 pages.

When you look at workforce housing, it’s about how to afford it.

“Roughly 30 percent of your income, would go toward your housing," Schliem says. "Bozeman right now, we’re pushing 40 to 50 percent.”

Then, daycare services -- both in quantity and quality.

“Quality daycare is running almost 30 to 40 percent of wages that are there and if you take housing and daycare, you’re almost at 60 percent of what you would take home," Schliem says.

On top of that, when it comes to getting new employees, the time’s are a’changing there, too.

“College kids don’t work today like they used to," Schliem says. "As college continues to be more expensive, parents that are paying out of state tuition want to get their kids into school, focus on school.”

As for those still looking to hire, like Five on Black, they keep trucking.

“We need more people that are just willing to roll up their sleeves and do something they may not have majored in," Schliem says.

Schliem says the chamber’s recent study shows that it will take more than the business community to solve what he calls an opportunity.

Filling in open positions with new employees will take everyone.