Jessica Cejnar / Thursday, July 22 @ 5:28 p.m.

There Were More Jobs in Del Norte Than People Looking For Work in June

Photo: Jim Lillicotch via Public Domain

Shaun Hartman noticed a shift between how employers relate to their employees toward the end of last summer.

Attrition is common in food service, says Hartman, one of the owners of CC Diner and Ice Cream in Crescent City. The high school and college students who worked during the summer return to their studies in the fall, but workers were leaving food service to work at places like Walmart. This, Hartman said, forced him to ask why.

“During COVID, people began to re-think their relationship to their workplace because the government started sending out these checks to homes — these economic stimulus checks,” he told the Wild Rivers Outpost on Thursday. “I know what that’s like — to have a windfall of money — you immediately begin to look at things you’re doing very differently.”

Even though Hartman hasn’t had to lay anyone off during the pandemic and says he doesn’t have a staffing problem, other employers in Del Norte County are experiencing a lack of applicants, said Christy Hernandez, program manager at the Smart Workforce Center, formerly the Del Norte Workforce Center.

There are more jobs posted than unemployed people in Del Norte County, Hernandez said, citing unemployment data.

“When we look at June data, it’s showing 750 people are unemployed that are in the labor force and we posted a little over 1,000 jobs during the month of June,” she said. “There are more jobs out there than even people supposedly looking for work right now.”

In June 2020, Del Norte County’s unemployment rate was 11.6 percent, Hernandez said. In June 2021, Del Norte’s jobless rate decreased to 7.9 percent, she said.

“It’s still not as good as before COVID, which was between 5 and 6 percent locally for Del Norte,” she said. “But at least we’re improving upon our unemployment from last year to this year.”

Still, it’s difficult to figure out why local employers are having difficulty finding applicants, Hernandez said. She added that her own agency has been having staffing issues.

Both Del Norte County and Crescent City have seen a decrease in the number of people applying for entry-level positions.

According to Sunny Valero, Crescent City’s human resources director, the vacant positions she’s having difficulty finding applicants are for the Public Works Department and the Lighthouse Cove RV Park. She said she advertises the position on Facebook, which has generated interest, but no submitted job applications.

“Maybe it’s because it’s not full time work — a couple are seasonal — maybe that has something to do with it, but any work is better than no work,” Valero said. “We put things out to colleges for a couple of our more technical positions and haven’t gotten a great response from those.”

In addition to seeing a decrease in the number of applicants for entry-level positions at the county, Human Resources and Risk Manager Cathy Hafterson said her department has also been ghosted.

“Several times we get applicants, we call and set them up for interviews and then they don’t show up,” she said.

Del Norte County has 16 open positions advertised on its website, though it fluctuates, Hafterson said. The dearth in applicants is a trend she said she’s noticed for awhile.

“Part of it, we thought, was due to when the state had the COVID restrictions and everyone was doing the stay-at-home order that may have impacted things,” she said. “I’m hearing it’s a national problem.”

Over at Del Norte Unified School District, though there’s not necessarily a staffing shortage, it’s hiring for several new positions due to additional funding to address learning loss during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to HR Director Coleen Parker.

Many of these are classified positions, including instructional aides and reading specialists, Parker said. The district is looking to hire new family liaisons to help its most at-risk students access services, she said.

DNUSD is planning a job fair from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Aug. 13 and 14 at Del Norte High School.

“We need people to bring their resume and transcripts if it’s needed for the job,” Parker said. “We’re doing testing right on site for the job, so they’ll take an exam and have an oral interview. That’ll be in the morning and in the afternoon principals will do the final interviews for hiring and offer jobs. On the following Monday, we’ll get people in the door for fingerprints.”

For more information about DNUSD’s job fair, call (707) 464-0242.

Over at CC Diner, the restaurant was up to 15 employees recently, Hartman said. He said he was able to get ahead of the staffing shortage, ensuring he has enough supervisors, managers and crew workers.

Hartman said he’s able to recruit and retain people because he tries to make the diner a rewarding environment with a good support structure and a good compensation schedule. He said he has even raised his prices to be able to pay his workers a little bit more.

“It used to be the privilege of the employee to have a job — you’re lucky if I’m giving you a job. Right now it ain’t that way,” Hartman said. “Right now it’s the privilege of the employer to have employees, and if you don’t recognize that, if you don’t see that, you’re going to have a hard time hiring people and a hard time keeping people.”


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