Pittsburgh-area employers are clamoring to come forward to job seekers as they continue to struggle to fill vacancies.
Demand from employers is so great that CareerLink Alle-Kiski in New Kensington had to add a second job fair to its schedule because it couldn’t fit all companies that wanted to attend an event on May 12.
“It’s still a market of job seekers,” said Phil Grove, account representative for CareerLink. The Alle-Kiski program will hold a second fair in June; details are pending.
“The company’s human resources professionals continue to work on how to reconfigure salaries and benefits to continue to be competitive in the marketplace,” Grove said.
Labor issues in the Pittsburgh area persist because the region’s workforce has not rebounded from the covid-19 pandemic.
“Nationally, the labor force has fully recovered, but Pittsburgh is doing much worse,” said PNC chief economist Gus Faucher.
“The employment climate is the most intimidating we’ve ever faced,” said Joseph Valero, CEO of Delmont’s Valero Service Inc., which specializes in vehicle manufacturing and fleet maintenance.
“Finding all the different highly skilled workers among mechanics, carpenters, fabricators and electricians is a monumental task,” he said. “I don’t know where the next generation of skilled employees will grow from.”
MSI Corp. of Vandergrift, a specialty metals producer, scheduled interviews with two potential employees earlier this week. They didn’t show up, owner Henry “Duke” McLaughlin said.
Others failed the physical exam, especially the drug test.
“If three applicants came through the doors, I would hire them – pending their physicals,” he said. “We have to do something different to find these new employees.”
Not enough workers — long-term problem in the region
Just before the covid-19 pandemic, in February 2020, the civilian workforce in the United States – which includes employed workers and people looking for work – numbered 164 million, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Its latest numbers, for March 2022, show that after job losses during the pandemic, the overall U.S. labor force has rebounded to pre-pandemic levels, according to Karl Kever, economist for the Mid-Atlantic region of the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
But not in the Pittsburgh metro area, where during the same period the region remains about 46,000 workers short of pre-pandemic levels, according to the latest statistics from the bureau.
In February 2020 in the Pittsburgh area, there were 1,217,173 people in the labor force compared to 1,171,516 reported in March 2022.
The Pittsburgh Metropolitan Statistical Area includes Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Butler, Fayette, Washington, and Westmoreland counties.
Some of the labor issues in the Pittsburgh area are decades-old issues, such as a declining population and an older workforce.
Older workers have decided to retire due to health risks posed by the pandemic, PNC’s Faucher said. Additionally, parents of school-aged children have dropped out of the workforce, and some people who received stimulus payments have not returned to work quickly.
“It looks like we’re seeing some of these people return to work, but the impact has been modest,” Faucher said.
Solutions include companies raising wages to attract young retirees and parents struggling with childcare issues, including availability and expense, he said. An end to the pandemic would also help. Potential workers with health issues would feel more comfortable coming back, he said.
“In the long term, we need stronger population growth in the region,” Faucher said. “So there is a shortage of workers in general, and that will be a long-term trend with us. That will take time. »
CareerLink tries to cover a mix of employers, from road construction to healthcare to manufacturing.
For the May 12 job fair, CareerLink will present 10 companies and an employment agency.
Westmoreland Assists Native Talent (WANT) will host a Jobs and Career Expo on May 18 at Westmoreland County Community College’s Student Success Center in Youngwood.
The WANT fair will bring together many regional employers accepting resumes and applications.
Omni Electric in New Kensington is recruiting for a range of positions at the Alle-Kiski Fair.
“The construction trades are in high demand,” said owner Gregory Riggatire. “Work is stable and will continue to be stable.”
The company hires residential and commercial electricians, helpers and journeymen, Riggatire said.
The pay scale for helpers is $14 to $17 per hour; electricians, $17 to $20; and journeyman electricians, $20 to $24. The jobs are full-time and, for the most part, local.
“The ideal employee would be honest, responsible, dependable, eager to learn and able to work well with others,” Riggatire said.