▶️ Labor desert: Central Oregon businesses still looking for summer help

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Oregon added over 6,000 jobs last month. The unemployment rate for Deschutes County is at 3.5% and isn’t too far away from the pre-pandemic low of 3.3%.

And yet, industries across Central Oregon are struggling to find employees as the summer tourism months arrive shortly.

“It’s a little overwhelming,” said Lori Weber, the Assistant Shelter Manager for the Humane Society of Central Oregon.

Down 2 1/2, the Humane Society is now closing their walk-ins on certain days and taking appointment only.

“It’s hard,” Weber said. “A lot of stress. We take care of animals that we love and it’s always on our hearts and our minds to make that a priority.”

“But I think that’s kind of becoming the norm and I think it will be the norm of not knowing what hours of any business is going to be right now,” said Lynne Ouchida, the Communications Manager for the Humane Society.

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Cascades East Transit cut down their Route 31 to Sunriver and halted their expansion to Saturday bus hours due to a lack of drivers.

“It’s especially challenging in our environment to really plan new services and then even try to retain our core services,” said Derek Hofbauer, the Outreach and Engagement Administrator at the Central Oregon Intergovernmental Council.

Cascades East Transit CET bus
Cascades East Transit bus

CET says the length of training needed to certify drivers for commercial licenses has been a roadblock.

“Have more non CDL driver positions and smaller fleets,” Hofbauer said.

CET’s other routes will remain in place, but they hope these future changes will allow more flexibility for employees.

“With the competition from the trucking industry and the school districts, it’s really hard to compete on that level,” Hofbauer said.

One industry facing labor shortage struggles on a national level, but not a local level, is lifeguarding.

“But so far we have been very successful and we’re doing great actually in the number of lifeguards we’ve hired,” said James Lewis, the General Manager for the Sunriver Owners Association “We’re ahead of where we have been in previous years before the lifeguard shortage.”

Bend Park and Recreation said they’re also ahead of scheduling when it comes to hiring lifeguards.

Both pools admitted they raised their wages to accommodate the shortage. SHARC now pays $21 an hour for new lifeguard hires.

“It’s just a fun place to work but again we did raise the wages because we have to be competitive,” Lewis said.

 

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