PIMA CO., Ariz. — Pima County has about half a million people in its workforce. And while the unemployment rate is inches downwards, now at 6.5-percent, “Job growth is still very slow. So I guess when you ask about job postings, there may be a lot of postings. But we’re not seeing everyone return to the workforce,” said Barbra Coffee, the City of Tucson’s economic initiatives director.
Coffee says the pandemic’s hardest-hit industries are the hospitality, restaurant, healthcare and construction sectors. The question is, are those employees coming back to work?
“We’re about 7,500 jobs shy of where we were in February 2020. So we still have some recovery to do,” said Coffee.
And in the construction industry, Ramon Gaanderse, the Vice President of operations at Tucson Asphalt says, there’s plenty of applicants but they’re having trouble hiring skilled and qualified workers.
“There’s plenty of people out there. Question is, do we have skilled positions or skilled folks out there that want to work and/or can you find them because they may already be working somewhere else?” said Gaanderse.
He says finding skilled employees has always been a challenge, but now, it's a perfect storm.
“All the work that’s now coming in, which is the most work we’ve seen in a really long time - so that coupled with the lack of skilled labor it's just boom. It just hit us hard right now at this very moment,” said Gaanderse.
Gaanderse says the construction industry as a whole is in a tight spot.
“Years ago we had the complete opposite conversation. There wasn’t enough work. We here are now talking the opposite where we got a lot of work, but not enough people, so how do we get it done?” said Gaanderse.
His suggestion: education. He says there are many resources out there to become skilled, such as Pima County One Stop and vocational programs such as JTED and Pima Community College.
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