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Job openings lack applicants

The historic rise in unemployment caused by the coronavirus pandemic is rebounding faster in Nevada County than the statewide average, but while the unemployment pool is larger, businesses are still seeing a lack of applicants.

According to Bureau of Labor Statistics data, the leisure and hospitality industry, which accounted for about 15% of Nevada County’s workforce last year, was down 2.7% in the county year-over-year for the first quarter of 2020. Since March, unemployment in the industry around the greater Sacramento area jumped to nearly 30% through July. Statewide, the industry was down more than 600,000 jobs in the same period.

Despite the decline, according Amy Velazquez, director of business services for the Alliance for Workforce Development, it’s this very industry that has kept Nevada County ahead of others.



“One of the key factors for Nevada County is that a lot of the area is a tourist attraction,” Velazquez said. “For Nevada County, June and July are primarily tourist seasons and because so many people can’t leave the country, or the state very likely, there’s a lot of people travelling to nearby areas. These areas that have tourist capacity are probably going to thrive in this environment because people can drive there, whereas they might have typically at this time been flying to Cancun.”

But in a July town hall, economist Dr. Jon Haveman warned county officials now is the time to move away from dependence on tourism, ­which is expected to continue declining statewide. Haveman pointed to real estate and broadband as potential sectors that will attract tech industry telecommuters whose stable, disposable income can then bolster downtown businesses, even as brick-and-mortar stores may need to become more service oriented.



“I’m not for a minute saying this will be easy,” Haveman said of the transition. “Home prices will go up, it’s going to crowd out some of the native population and we already have issues with Airbnbs doing the same thing, so it’s going to take a lot of planning.”

One place the two agreed is that retraining will be needed in light of the pandemic.

According to Velazquez, the Alliance for Workforce Development is seeing a 7:2 job opening to job applicant ratio, which she said is driven by health concerns and employers’ wages unable to compete with unemployment benefits.

“As unemployment award amounts get back to normal without the CARES Act grant addition, you’ll see people looking for employment a little but more,” Velazquez said. “It’s hard to tell an employer, ‘Hey, if you really need that position filled you’re going to need to pay $15 an hour’ when they’re struggling. But some of those entry level wages just aren’t attractive to job seekers right now, even more so if they are collecting unemployment.”

Velasquez said many of the openings her organization is seeing are in health care, retail, and construction and trades. While trades are usually in demand, she said, retail and health care openings are likely due to low wages and health concerns.

“We are a direct resource to individuals seeking new employment or training opportunities and right now is a great time to consider some other careers and review the training programs we offer,” Velazquez said. “There are opportunities — just because unemployment rates are high doesn’t mean there aren’t opportunities out there.”

To contact Staff Writer John Orona, email jorona@theunion.com or call 530-477-4229.


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