In the Know column: Most local job openings pay $15-$25 an hour

A survey of 100 companies in Douglas County showed that 57% had 1-7 current job openings.

By Nicole Fernholz

It is no secret that the labor shortage is being felt across our nation. The lack of available workers in Minnesota continues to pose challenges for employers across all industries. In Douglas County, the most recent unemployment rate (May 2021) was reported at 2.7%, which is a slight dip from the previous month.

There are daily storylines that complicate the explanation of pandemic job recovery and the lack of workers. We read that millions of Americans remain unemployed due to enhanced unemployment assistance. Other headlines tell us that although our economy reopened quickly, some of the public is still concerned for their safety and fear going back to work. We also read about the “Great Resignation” that details that while having had time to take stock of their work lives, many people have decided that after a year and a half of fear and uncertainty, now is the time to make a change. They do not want to return to their old normal and are looking for a different lifestyle than pre-COVID.

What does this mean for our local companies? Are they feeling the employee shortage as well? Our office partnered with the Alexandria Chamber of Commerce to survey our employers on their experiences with employee shortage.

Of the approximate 100 companies survey:


  • 57% had 1-7 current job openings.

  • 19% had over 21 job openings.

  • 83% of the job openings were for wages from $15.01-$25 per hour.

  • The employee shortage has caused employers to increase overtime, and/ or limit services by reducing operational hours. 70% of the respondents replied they are working to address current employee burnout and stress.

  • Overall, companies are seeing less applicants (1-3 per job opening) and it is taking over 6 weeks to fill a position.

Respondents also provided thoughts on why there is an employee shortage:

  • Lack of affordable housing and childcare in the area.

  • People changing careers due to their place of employment being shut down during COVID.

  • Extended unemployment benefits and employer wages being unable to compete.

Workforce development, and talent attraction will be the greatest investment in the years to come. As businesses in virtually every industry face a growing shortage of labor, our area is poised to meet the needs that potential residents are looking for in a home. Several studies have found that most of today’s younger workforce (Millennials) want to live in smaller communities like ours, with one study finding that 58% prefer suburban areas or small towns and rural areas.
A strong community is one whose residents actively participate in cultivating prosperity. At this time, how can you help? Many of the best things we can do to build great places is to start with small actions. The smallest thing you can do is simply be kind and patient. Our area has a strong tourism pull, and there are many people coming into the community. You may have to wait a bit longer to get served at your local restaurant. Be patient.

The next smallest thing you can do is be an advocate for your community. Know someone looking for a new job or lifestyle? Have them check out our community – it could be exactly what they are looking for.

Nicole Fernholz is the director of the Alexandria Area Economic Development Commission. In the Know is a rotating column written by community leaders from the Douglas County area.

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