Record editorial: Labor shortage a challenge for businesses, broader community
It’s been a difficult year and a half to run a business in Park City.
First, the coronavirus pandemic forced many businesses to shut down last spring and has since required them to adopt extraordinary measures to keep workers and patrons safe. And now, employers find themselves confronting another crisis: a dearth of workers that seems even more pronounced than labor shortages preceding the coronavirus.
The pandemic will one day be a thing of the past. But it’s harder to see an end to the hiring crunch given the circumstances that have created it, from the area’s high cost of living to demographic changes in the workforce.
The shortage, as employers well know, is nothing new. Businesses have for years struggled to hire enough help. But the trends heading into this ski season are perhaps more bleak than ever. Some employers have reportedly been forced to cut hours due to staffing shortages. Others have found creative ways to get the job done with fewer workers. Few, if any, have been unaffected.
More than just unwelcome news for businesses, the hiring woes are troubling for the entire community. Summit County Economic Development Director Jeff Jones, for one, sees the potential for the shortage to exacerbate some of the most pressing problems we face.
Park City’s cost of living could rise further as businesses charge higher prices in order to pay employees more money and consumers, then, seek higher wages themselves to pay for the more costly goods and services. That cycle could have impacts ranging from eroding the community atmosphere as even fewer blue-collar workers and young professionals are able to live here, to increasing traffic congestion as businesses, in turn, recruit more workers from outlying areas.
What’s the best way to stem the tide? Businesses offering perks like flexible hours, child care stipends and additional paid time off can help, but the best solution is a familiar refrain in discussions about our community’s future: building more affordable housing and offering workers an opportunity to put down roots.
As we’ve seen over the decades, easing the affordable housing shortage is a vexing problem of its own. It has stymied local officials despite their best efforts. But the current hiring challenges make clear that we are at a crossroads: If we’re not able to make significant progress on affordable housing, and soon, our businesses and our community will suffer.
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