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High demand for holiday workers in Missoula - KPAX.com | Continuous News | Missoula & Western Montana

High demand for holiday workers in Missoula

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MISSOULA - The current job market is great for the workforce, but tough on employers because of an increased challenge finding skilled workers.

This trend has also made its way to seasonal work, particularly in the retail space. Reporter Don Fisher went on Special Assignment to learn more about how businesses are responding to this issue.

With unemployment rates in Missoula around 3%, businesses throughout the community are having a tougher time finding skilled workers. The retail stores are no exception -- and are looking outside the box to help attract more applicants. It all started last year with the Missoula Job Service.

“So last year we were talking with some of the employers and it was during the holiday season and they were just having a really tough time. By then it was too late to actually do a career fair so we started planning one for this year, and we had about 30 employers and they were all very appreciative with the exposure they were getting," Missoula Job Service supervisor Kristi Harman.

This is a trend that’s been going for the last few years, as the economy has improved- so has the unemployment rate. While mall retailers have struggled to find seasonal help, across the street at Bob Wards, they say they haven’t a drop off in applications.

“A lot of times there's so many applications is tough to keep up with all of them. There are seasonalities of when applications are coming through heavier," said Bob Ward's store manager Allen Cain. "Obviously, when schools are getting out or starting we'll see a heavier traffic flow of applications coming through the front doors at that time. But it seems like we always have a pretty good pool to go to and look for our help.”

Other local businesses have had to become more creative to attract applicants.

“Have retail and all other employers in town, we're starting to see wages go up a little bit because it is so competitive right now. Flexible schedules, working with student schedules is an important thing also," Harman said.

Cain says he thinks their emphasis on working with students, have helped keep their workforce strong.

“We always try to work with college students and I think that actually is an enticement for people to come in because we're willing to work with school schedules a lot," Cain said. "We certainly have our full-time year-round employees that are kind of the core, but then on top of that our part-time employees that are coming in as college students or someone just looking for a side job things like that.”

Harman says the seasonal job fair is a positive step for retail stores, but the lack of workers isn’t going away any time soon.

“Retail historically is lower wages and they're also just looking for part time for short periods, like a couple months. A lot of times people are looking for full time work right now.”

Harman added that the Missoula Job Service plans on hosting another seasonal job fair next year, but hope to hold it in September instead of October, in an effort to give employers a head start on seasonal hiring.

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