San Luis Obispo County ranks 8th lowest unemployment rate in California

By Christianna Marks

NORTH COUNTY — Help wanted signs have been popping up all over The North County. In the windows of businesses, online, and even on the radio. The explosion of these ads indicates that there are plenty of jobs in the county, and yet, the jobs aren’t being filled.

The Dentist Office of Dr. Rick Wearda in Templeton has been running an ad looking for a Dental Assistant for over a month. They had a total of three responses, and in the end, they hired back a previous employee to fill the role full-time.

Getting through this together, Paso Robles

“So basically, there’s been very little interest [in the position]. There are two pages of dentists looking for dental assistants on Craigslist right now. And a lot of them aren’t even asking for registered dental assistants, just dental assistants. If you’re registered, you can do a lot more than just a dental assistant,” says Patty McCall, the receptionist at Dr. Wearda’s office.

McCall has worked as the receptionist at Dr. Wearda’s office for over 14 years and has seen employees come a go.

“I’ve heard from other people, removed from the dental practice, that they’re having a hard time filling their openings. My fiancé works at Paso Robles Kia. They’re not getting anybody looking for sales jobs. So, they’ve been short-staffed staffed for a while. And people aren’t even coming in and applying. It used to be that there was always somebody. They’ve always had some applications,” Patty McCall continued.

Currently, San Luis Obispo County ranks eighth-lowest unemployment rate in the state of California. And unemployment rates dropped from 5.5 percent in August to 4.6 percent in September–yet, employees are still hard to find.

“I have job openings for a line-cook on Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, and Indeed. Indeed I had to pay over $500 to keep it [the ad] visible because there are so many cook positions open. I didn’t get one lead from Indeed. $500 and zero return. And I haven’t gotten line-cooks. Which is what we need. We’re a family-friendly, pub-grub spot. It’s not fine-dining, and I get that’s not the most attractive, but there have to be people out there that have skills and want to work,” says Jacque Fields, president, and co-founder of Wild Fields Brewhouse in Atascadero.

It’s clear the employee shortage is having a negative effect on local small businesses in North County. But external things, like the pandemic, also play a role.

“I think a huge part of it for us is…[what] makes it hard to like fully pull the trigger and hire people full time, is because business isn’t consistent. And people’s comfort levels aren’t consistent. And so you’re fighting a lot of variabilities. And so as business owners, and as bosses, you don’t wanna like say ‘hey, come on full time,’ and then not have those opportunities that you’re promising people,” Fields adds.

Spearhead Coffee in Paso Robles hasn’t gone untouched by the employee shortage either, though they’ve been fortunate in finding employees.

“We are fortunate that we have baristas, bakers, and roasters that have stayed with our team for a considerable amount of time and are loyal to us and our brand, but we have noticed that when it’s time to add to our team, it’s been increasingly more challenging to find the right fit with the current employee shortage,” says co-owner and CEO, Jeremy Sizemore.

“We have been able to fill the positions, but it’s taken more time and effort than usual. After talking with our friends in the coffee community, we have heard that we have been very fortunate. It hasn’t been as easy for
our friends in our industry,” Sizemore concluded.

Chulo’s Café and Cantina in Templeton has had to close twice in the last year. Each time for at least a week, due to being short-staffed.

“I’ve been looking for employees for—probably a year. And no luck. You know, the ads that I put on the internet, on Facebook, we don’t receive any applications. To the point, that–every time I go to the store or something [I ask], ‘do you know somebody? Do you need a job?’ Anywhere. It’s just been a challenge. I’m very short-staffed. I can’t open for dinners, I used to open for dinners, because we don’t have another cook, or another crew to jump on the nighttime [shift]. And I don’t want to overwork my people,” says owner Karol Struble.

The labor shortage even has owners working multiple jobs themselves.

“I’ve been here every day helping out. Whatever is needed, you know—everything. I could be a dishwasher one day. I could be a cook another day. I could be a waitress another day. I could be a busser another day. It’s very hard for me to get a day off because of the situation,” Struble continues. “It’s crazy, but it’s real.”

If the trend in unemployment rates continues to decrease, the hope is that local business owners will be able to fill their job openings in the months to come, especially with the holidays season fast approaching.