Bucks County jobs: Recruiting comes up short amid labor shortage – Bucks County Courier Times

“Shopping around” isn’t normally a term coined for job-hunting, but as long as widespread staffing shortages persist, job seekers maintain the upper hand in today’s job market. 
Two and half years into the pandemic, employers are still suffering from major disruptions to the work force, compelling Bucks County businesses to expand recruitment and retention efforts — hosting job fairs, offering sign-on bonuses, investing more into advertising, increases wages and benefits and providing a desirable work environment. 
But despite these attempts, companies are still struggling to fill open positions, said Theresa Katalinas, president of Katalinas Communications. In July, she had worked with Falls Township to organize a job fair in hopes of helping local businesses attract more workers.
The four-hour event hosted 38 employers with around 600 open positions, and yet only about 200 job seekers showed up — further punctuating the disparity between the number of jobs available and those looking for work.
“While we had a good response from businesses, the turnout was disappointing,” Katalinas said. “Employers are doing everything they can, they’re beating the drum. But it’s just not working out with workers.”
She noticed certain businesses had a tougher time than others in attracting interest, particularly those with roles that can only be performed in-person.
“Jobs like home health aides, food service and retail, that can’t be remote, they just didn’t get a ton of response,” Katalinas said.
Falls Township will hold its next job fair on Oct. 19 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Westaby Hall on Hood Boulevard.
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In early August, PA CareerLink Bucks County, which offers free services to assist job seekers and employers, relocated its career center from Bristol to a newly renovated facility in Trevose.
The new site, located at 4800 E. Street Rd. Suite 50, provides a larger and more equipped space for trainings, workshops, job fairs and recruitment events, and features a full-service cafeteria, newly renovated computer lab, modernized workshop spaces and meeting rooms and an out-of-school youth center.
Recently, Jessica Peterson, operations manager at PA CareerLink Bucks County, has noticed more challenges, as those looking for employment have been trying to find ways to cut down on the cost of travel.
“The job seekers are expressing concerns with long commutes, requesting interviews via Zoom to help cut down on traveling and are looking for remote work due to work/life balance with children’s school schedules as well.  We are also seeing fewer job seekers requesting in-person appointments due to gas prices. The job seekers are participating in workshops and appointments via Zoom,” Peterson said.
For employers, she said retention continues to impact businesses as they are having to offer more to keep employees from leaving.
“Employers have been offering higher wages, hybrid work models as well as full remote work just to retain the talent they have,” said Peterson. 
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As of June, Bucks County unemployment rates have returned to pre-pandemic levels at 3.7%. There has also been a 17% increase in online job postings from last summer with more than 12,000 reported.
“Presently it is a job-seeker market,” said Billie Barnes, director of the Bucks County Department of Workforce and Economic Development. “Employers who previously relied on applicants seeking them out now find it necessary to advertise their job postings. We are seeing openings in almost every industry as well as employers exhibiting a willingness to increase their wages at this time.”
She pointed to several reasons workers are missing or not returning to unfilled jobs, including COVID-19 concerns, child care, increases in entrepreneurship and retirement.
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“But unfilled jobs are only half the equation,” Barnes added. “The next step in addressing the labor shortage is how do we implement solutions to attract and keep new workers. Collectively as a region, we are brainstorming strategies.” 
Across the state, unemployment was at 4.3% in July, 2.1 percentage points below its July 2021 level, according to an employment report released by the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry.
“The jobs report for July is a testament to Pennsylvania workers’ ability to bounce back from a crisis, provide for their families and contribute to a strong economy that benefits all of us,” Pennsylvania Labor and Industry secretary Jennifer Berrier said in a press release earlier this month. 
“As the unemployment rate continues to steadily decline, job growth continues across the board in industries ranging from professional and business services to trade and transportation. This month marks the first time since June 2019 that we have had 4.3 percent unemployment.”
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Locally, there are more than 50,000 jobs in the health care and social assistance sector, making it the largest industry in the county. It’s why employers like Pine Run Retirement Community in Doylestown Township have continued creating new ways to attract skilled applicants to fill those openings.
“Our biggest struggle is wages because of the competitive market that health care specifically has been in over the last few years. For Pine Run and Doylestown Health, we’re making sure potential new hires understand everything we can offer, including sign-on bonuses and other perks,” said Nicole Nelson, a recruiter at Pine Run.
“It’s almost like a rate war right now. At this point, the applicant is in the driver’s seat,” she added.
While she said it’s difficult to compete with the higher wages being offered lately by nursing agencies and larger retirement care facilities, Nelson hopes to entice qualified candidates with a comfortable work environment and added benefits like tuition reimbursement, paid time off, retirement plans, access to the campus swimming pool and fitness center, and discounted employee lunches. 
“It’s little things like that; I’ve been focused on what we’re offering. It’s run very well, but it’s laid back,” she said. “Our environment and culture say a lot. It’s why people stay for sure.”
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But the struggle is in getting applicants to walk through their doors, said Nelson. So, they’ve worked to increase visibility and accessibility with a banner announcing an effort they call, “Walk-in Wednesdays.”
Without a phone call or appointment, interested candidates can simply stop by any Wednesday, ask to learn more about open positions and be interviewed on the spot.
“I’ve already seen the upswing in interest from applicants, so I feel good going into the Fall season. And I think it’s time to be aggressive; that’s why we’re increasing the amount of job fairs we have and the advertisements. It’s going to be important come September to increase the recruitment. So, it’s going to be busy, but I think we’re going to see a good outcome.” 

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