Unemployment affected millions of Americans during the coronavirus. However, some business owners in the resort town of McCall continue to struggle to find employees.
The preliminary July unemployment numbers for Valley County show that 402 people were without a job, at a rate of 6.6%. In comparison, June 2019 accounted for 209 unemployed people, at a rate of 3.8%.
Craig Shaul, the research analyst supervisor for the Idaho Department of Labor, says that most people listed as unemployed are likely in that position because of the pandemic.
Trouble filling positions
David Carey, general manager of Hotel McCall, Rupert’s and Jug Mountain Ranch still can’t fill positions at his businesses.
“We have an opening in every damn department and every damn position, and we don’t even get callbacks,” he said.
Carey says there isn’t a simple answer to the hiring challenges.
“Some are juggling other stuff,” he said. “Maybe they’re co-parenting in a different way than they used to… It’s confusing. Maybe you have a job and then you don’t because the business opened and closed because of some COVID thing. But I honestly don’t know.”
Jug Mountain Ranch has a high volume of cancelations for weddings. The golf course normally hosts several big weddings, this season there will be very few. Carey says with the employment challenges this is not necessarily a bad thing.
“Every single one of those is canceled. To be honest, it’s actually a source of relief,” he said. “It would sound like that’s a big blow to us, and sure, it’s lost some revenue. But at the same time, it’s making our life easier. We don’t have the staff so it’s genuinely a source of relief that we don’t have to do these events because it would be very, very hard for us to do.”
Similarly, Shannon Berry, owner of McCall Weddings, said she is having a hard time hiring people and getting old staff to return.
Berry and her now-limited staff have been working overtime to make up for the employees she lost throughout the pandemic.
“Every single restaurant in town has help wanted signs in their windows,” she said. “Like every single one.”
CARES Act and Idaho minimum wage
Berry thinks people not returning to work are a consequence of the CARES Act. Until July 25, CARES was giving people on unemployment benefits an extra $600 a week on top of normal unemployment benefits.
Idaho follows the federal minimum wage at $7.25 an hour. That means someone working 40-hour weeks and making minimum wage is earning $290 a week before taxes.
For many Idahoans, unemployment is more than doubling what they make working. So for some staying unemployed may be a simple decision.
Since the end of the $600 bonus, people have been allotted only state employment compensation. Which in Idaho, is a percentage of a person’s pay based on their last four quarters of earnings. This is significantly lower than what people have been making since the CARES act passed.
Now people on unemployment are waiting to receive an extra $300 per week in Idaho. And employers sit wondering if employees will come back without the extra benefits.
“Our mini mantra here is day by day, week by week,” Carey said. “You blink and the summer will be done and then we can kind of reevaluate everything again.”