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Survey shows Springfield among top U.S. cities for job growth, but many businesses still seeking workers

Published: Oct. 14, 2021 at 10:32 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - A new survey shows Springfield is among the top U.S. cities for job opportunities, but many businesses across the area are still struggling to fill vacant positions.

If you have driven across the area, you have likely seen dozens of “hiring” or “help wanted” signs. Many local businesses have even had to reduce hours at their locations.

Amid the current worker shortage, a survey by CareerBuilder shows that Springfield is ranked fifth among small U.S. cities for the most job opportunities.

According to CareerBuilder, the database shows there are currently 83 jobs available for every 1,000 people. Job opportunities and the demand for workers has been a big topic across the Ozarks and the country as a whole.

On Thursday, a state representative from the Department of Economic Development met with local businesses at the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce to see how the state can help. It’s all part of a project under Gov. Mike Parson’s “Show Me Strong Recovery” task force. The recovery plan was initiated towards the start of the pandemic as a way for the state to see what steps need to be taken to help small business development amid the pandemic.

Many businesses say staffing is still their biggest issue.

“If you think of a job seeker as a buyer, it’s a buyer’s market,” said Matt Morrow, President of the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce.

Right now, job selections are like grocery stores. There are plenty of options in every direction, yet there is one pretty big issue.

”One thing that’s been absolutely consistent has been a shortage of skilled workforce,” Morrow said. “And as everybody is trying to ramp up, at the same time, there’s a real shortage and available workforce.”

Morrow said it is a very competitive time for employers, rather than job seekers themselves.

”One of the real challenges for small businesses is that they’re mostly hiring people from each other, instead of hiring people who are entering the workforce and needing jobs,” he said. “And that’s a challenge.”

State representatives with the Department of Economic Development say the list of reasons could go on and on.

”One, there’s a lot of competition for skilled labor,” said Paul Eisenstein with the Missouri Department of Economic Development. “I think also, there’s a lot of folks who are retiring from the workforce.”

Some businesses have grown, and even doubled employees, including the Erlen Group, which was formerly known as the Springfield Underground. Even so, leaders at the company say that has not come without challenge.

“We’ve seen that, you know, women have been disproportionately impacted during the pandemic. We feel like probably because they fall into a caregiver role,” said Christina Angle, Chief Financial Officer of the Erlen Group. “And there’s been, people have had to make choices throughout the course of the pandemic about how to care for kids with the decrease in the amount of schooling and availability of childcare. It’s also a cost decision.”

Some companies have bumped up pay, benefits and programs.

Springfield population growth is also growing above the national average, but Morrow said it could take more.

”I would like to see it growing about twice as fast as it is,” he said. “I think there’d be opportunity there if we could grow it 2% a year instead of 1% a year. We could really help to meet some of these needs.”

After Thursday’s meeting, state leaders will report back to the governor and his task force.

”We’re going to share what we learned from not only from Springfield, but other other cities where we learned from small business owners,” Eisenstein said.

The task force will present recommendations on how to support small businesses in Missouri. The final report is due by the end of this year. The task force will meet with Gov. Parson next Thursday.

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