Drive around Enid and you will notice “Help Wanted” signs in every window. No matter the job, CNA to CPA, employers can’t find the people they need. While it feels like a very specific problem to Enid, it isn’t. Every community in the country is struggling with finding people who can fill open jobs. The inability to fill open positions limits a business’ ability to reach its full earning potential and is the greatest limiting factor for economic growth in both Enid and the U.S.

A labor shortage is nothing new to Northwest Oklahoma. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, there was a growing need for labor in the hospitality, retail and manufacturing sectors. But the shortage we are seeing now seems different. While it is easy to blame the enhanced unemployment benefits as a cause for people staying out of the workforce, there are other changes underway.

Many economists believe that experiences during the pandemic have caused people to reprioritize their life, which includes evaluating the way they work. Coming out of the pandemic, people are taking the time to decide what their next career move may be.

The change of jobs may also require retraining which further delays a person’s re-entry into the work force. McKinsey Global Institute notes in their research on the future of work post-COVID that 17 million workers may switch occupations by 2030.

Much of the way we worked during COVID will continue even as we are able to get back to the more traditional style of work. These trends include flexible schedules, social distancing practices and remote work opportunities. Companies that cannot offer more flexible schedules and allow employees to work from home are fighting the labor shortage by increasing wages or increasing automation. As wages increase, it will become more economical for employers to look to automation in areas of their business that do not require complex decision-making.

The automation of simple tasks such as order taking will continue to replace our lowest-paid jobs. It is more imperative than ever that people commit to life-long learning to stay relevant in today’s workplace.

For Enid to remain the economic driver of Northwest Oklahoma, we must continue promoting Enid as a great place to live, work and raise a family. Before COVID-19, Enid’s unemployment rate was 3.075%. As of April 2021, our unemployment rate is back down to 3.7%. The changes in the way people want to work coupled with the growth in our economy are creating a strong demand for employees. It is said that a community is either growing or dying, and both scenarios come with their own set of problems. I’m glad to be working on problems created as a result of our growth. Enid is in an excellent position to attract new people to live and work in our community, and it is exciting to see the economy doing so well.

If there’s anything we can do to help your business grow in Enid, please give us a call — we would love to hear from you.

Lisa Powell 6.28.21