As the private sector struggles to fill positions, the countrywide labor shortage hasn’t spared public employers.
In Rock County government, Administrator Josh Smith said the county had struggled “historically and recently” to fill various positions, the most common being certified nursing assistants for Rock Haven, 911 emergency dispatchers and corrections officers for the Rock County Jail.
“We observe that the current economic climate has increased competition for staff, and wage competition is a real issue everywhere. Job postings are located on our website, but they also get spread all over the internet to job sites,” Smith said.
Smith said the county also has started advertising available jobs through billboards and radio spots, something that has never been done before.
“We’ve been trying to be creative in addressing this,” Smith added.
Smith said that creativity has led to a referral bonus program for current employees. The Rock County Board of Supervisors also approved a $15 an hour minimum wage for county employees.
Another step taken by the county has been offering internships, Smith said.
“For many years now we’ve been trying to make the county a more inclusive workplace in order to attract a broader pool of applicants as well as retain the staff we have,” Smith said. “I expect addressing workforce challenges in a more planned and comprehensive way will be a priority for the county in 2022.”
In the city of Beloit, City Manager Lori Curtis Luther said the city was “not immune” to the staffing challenges faced by private employers.
“We have managed to fill most positions, although the number of applications for each position has been lower than in the past,” Luther said.
Seasonal staffing positions also have been harder for the city to fill, Luther added.
“Seasonal staffing was extraordinarily difficult this year, and we are uncertain what the labor market will look like in 2022,” Luther said.
The city, which uses online job platform government jobs.com to list openings, currently lists 13 available positions that need to be filled in the city. Positions range from public works openings to positions within such city departments as community development and transit.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics released a report Tuesday highlighting the fluctuations of job openings and turnover for August, the most recent month with available data. As of Aug. 31, the number of job openings nationwide decreased to 10.4 million, a decrease of 659,000 job openings. Job openings in the federal government, meanwhile, increased by 22,000.
The largest decreases in job openings were in health care and social assistance fields (224,000 positions filled) along with 178,000 jobs filled in food services, and 124,000 positions filled across state and local governments, the August labor data shows, a potential sign that people could be seeking more government jobs in the months ahead.
But some municipalities in the area have been able to fill all or nearly all positions, with pending offers currently out to prospective employees.
Town of Beloit Finance Director Tim Wellnitz said the town wasn’t facing a worker shortage, noting that a conditional offer for the position of police officer was outstanding as the town’s only open position.