SARATOGA COUNTY — Saratoga County has the lowest unemployment rate in the state, and local businesses are feeling it.
Employers are facing hiring issues as the number of people who are unemployed continues to drop.
“There is a misalignment between the number and the types of jobs that are available, and the very small number of people who are unemployed,” Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce President Todd Shimkus said. “Across the U.S. the stat I saw was that there are two open jobs for every individual that’s unemployed.”
The number of people employed in the county now is the largest number employed in the county since at least 1990, Shimkus said.
“That’s more people than we’ve ever had working, which really speaks as to why the unemployment rate is so low,” Shimkus said.
There is a historic labor shortage nationally as well as regionally and locally, Shimkus said. He explained it is likely the shortage may not end for years.
The state Department of Labor recently released statewide unemployment data for June 2022. According to the data, Saratoga County is tied for the lowest unemployment rate in the state along with Columbia and Yates County with an unemployment rate of 2.6%.
Saratoga County’s unemployment rate has decreased over the past year from 4.2% in June 2021 to 2.6% in June 2022. According to the labor department, the amount of people employed in the county has increased in the past year from 115,000 in June 2021 to 119,900 in June 2022. An increase of about 5%.
The difficulty of finding employees crosses all industries, Shimkus said. He explained that in Saratoga County there are CPA firms which have decided to drop clients, landscaping firms that have dropped entire neighborhoods, restaurants that close two days a week, elderly care facilities that have reduced the number of beds they have and nonprofits that have been forced to reduce the services they offer.
“Everyone who can and wants to work is essentially working right now in Saratoga,” Shimkus said. “And we have probably thousands of jobs literally, that just won’t be filled.”
Finding employees has become a challenge for many businesses in recent years. Throughout the county, help wanted signs and advertisements remain a common sighting.
“I think its starting to get a little better,” said Amber Willay, manager of Wit’s End Giftique in Clifton Park. “More people are asking for applications now than they were.”
Willay explained that the store received five applications in the past month, and this time last year they were getting one or two a month. She said it was much more difficult towards the beginning of the pandemic to hire employees. The store currently has about 50 employees, she said, and explained they are currently hiring.
“It was pretty bad, we were all hands on deck back when we didn’t have the help,” Willay said.
Kirsten Lambert, owner of Tailgate and Party Shop in downtown Saratoga Springs, said she believes the difficulty finding employees is felt in all industries, but for retail stores like hers she believes it is not as bad as in other industries like restaurants.
“I don’t see it as much in retail as I think the restaurants do, I think the restaurants are the most hit,” she said. “And I see a lot of people saying their staff just doesn’t show up. It’s one thing hiring people, but being reliable people is the problem. I’m in good shape right now for the summer, but I know when I hit September its going to be a whole new ball game as they go off to college.”
To fill the number of positions they offer at Saratoga Race Course, New York Racing Association held an additional job fair this year.
“The summer meet at historic Saratoga Race Course is responsible for $240 million in annual economic impact throughout the Capital Region,” said Patrick McKenna, NYRA vice president of communications. “NYRA employs approximately 2,000 full time, part time and seasonal workers to support the 40-day meet, with thousands more jobs indirectly tied to the success of Saratoga Race Course.”
The track is open for about eight weeks from July 14 to September 5 this year.
“Saratoga Race Course is fully staffed, and the overall employment numbers are very similar to prior years.”