Signs like these at Madison Produce are all around town as local business seek employees amidst an ongoing labor shortage.

The unemployment rate in Morgan County is at a record low, but local businesses are feeling the pinch from the ongoing labor shortage.

According to the latest data from the Georgia Department of Labor, Georgia’s statewide unemployment rate is at 3.7 percent, while Morgan County boasts a rate of 2.6 percent.

“That’s the good news,” said Bob Hughes, president of the Madison-Morgan Chamber of Commerce, who delivered an update to the Madison Mayor and City Council last Friday morning. “We are doing well from that perspective, but the bad thing is that all the industries-you have all seen the signs-all the businesses are looking for employees.

According to Hughes, businesses all across Morgan County are having trouble finding and retaining employees.

“The labor shortage is across all segments of business: manufacturing, fast food, hospitality etc.,” explained Hughes. “All businesses are hiring, but a prospective employee must be willing to stick with an employer for a while for both to benefit.”

Businesses are attempting creative ways to attract new employees, including raised wages, cash bonuses, health insurance, and help with college tuition.

“So, if somebody doesn’t have a job, it’s their fault,” said Hughes to the council Friday morning. “I hate to say that, but it’s true.”

Hughes was disappointed by a recent job fair held at Morgan County High School to help pair prospective workers with local companies that are hiring.

“Five years ago, Mannington held a job fair and more than 300 applicants showed up,” said Hughes. “This year we held a job fair at the high school with 22 local businesses participating and we had only 12 to 13 people who were actively looking for jobs attend. It just didn’t pan out.”

The lackluster turnout at the recent job fair is indicative of what is happening in the labor market, not just in Morgan County, but all across Georgia and the country as a whole. Hughes believes some of the COVID-relief funds, particularly the paycheck protection program, have enabled workers to take time, transition careers, and in some cases, take advantage of the program.

“That may be helping drive people’s reluctance in coming back to work,” said Hughes.

In the meantime, Hughes is focusing on partnering with the Morgan County Charter School System to enhance workforce development efforts in the county.

One of the initiatives included a partnership with Georgia Power Company to allow four teachers to be immersed in local industries, so they could in turn, incorporate the desired skill sets into the curriculum.

“We are trying to fill the pipeline of potential workers through the high school,” said Hughes. “We are working with the College and Career Academy to elevate what they are doing with our students-to do some of the work-based learning to help fill the pipeline in our area.”

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