From September 2020 to September 2021 there was an increase in employment in 47 of the 50 states.

As of October 2021, Oklahoma wages range from minimum wage of $7.25 an hour up to $37.40 an hour in some occupations. Oklahoma is ranked 7th in the nation for its 3% rate of unemployment, compared to 4.8 percent for the rest of the country.

Reported higher wages and low unemployment in Oklahoma hasn’t eased the trend of staff shortages in Woodward. Across the board, local business owners and managers say they are struggling with employee shortages, unreliable staff, increased shipping fees for merchandise and supplies, and increased delays in receiving merchandise and supplies for their businesses.

The News visited with several owners and managers about their current situation and how they are handling the issues.

Cassie Wayman, manager at Family Dollar has been fully staffed now for three months, though reaching that status wasn’t easy.

“It’s very hard to find good workers. In June I had two quit and had to be replaced. I had to go through two checkers before finding a good one,” she said.

Kris Miller, manager of O’Reilly Auto Supply, has been a little short of staff but has not needed to reduce hours the store is open.

“It’s harder to get help now. They don’t want to work. We’ve lost a lot of people like high school kids who are not wanting to work now,” he noted.

Richard Craddock, sales manager of Auto Zone, estimated that up to 90 percent of jobs on the market are not relative to the actual needs.

“Some people don’t apply

correctly and people do not want to work after a year-anda- half of government money,” he said. “Anti-vaccines are another issue for people, plus low pay compared to other places. We have room for two more staff for on-the-job-training but they do need computer knowledge.”

For some fast food businesses, the problem is a little more intense.

Courtney Herbst, manager of Carl’s Jr, shared her struggle to find dependable cooks and cashiers.

“Some work for two weeks or less, don’t show up, or walk out in the middle of a shift,” she said.“The teenagers on the night shift are pretty dependable. We only have small cups now. There has been a very big shortage of supplies. The corporation is not offering increased wages and a job incentive.”

Christi Eisenbach, manager of Braums, is short staffed, even with pay increases.

“Applicants are not answering calls for an interview,” she said. The 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. shift needs 5 to 6 more employees. Some skip their interviews or quit after less than two weeks, even with wages going up to $12.50 per hour for adults and $9.25 per hour for kids. It’s overwhelming sometimes.”

Song Cho, assistant manager of McDonald’s, reported that they have had no problem getting in their orders on time.

Staffing is at times challenging with some no shows for their shift or they cancel coming in to work. Overall, McDonald’s seems to be doing well even with the construction of the new restaurant beside the existing restaurant and reduced parking.

Sheila Halley has been the manager of Express Employment in Woodward for 24 years.

She says there are a variety of challenges for finding people to fill jobs in the Woodward area.

“During this difficult time there are multiple families sharing one home or apartment. Some adults will not work because they make more from state assistance. Some cannot work due to not having a babysitter,” she said.“In the last month there has been an increase of applicants from ads but no increase in the number taking jobs offered to them.

They don’t want to work or they want to do it on their time.

Three of five applicants come in for an interview. The others do not come it at all or they come in late for their interview.

“Thirty-five of Woodward’s Express Employment Agency clients will not take applicants who use medical marijuana and many applicants utilize medical marijuana. These are the hardest years to find work - even for $15 to $17 an hour. Currently there are 14 unfilled job openings for six different employers.

Along Main Street, in many cases late shipments are a bigger problem than staff, at least for some businesses.

Monso Carvajal, who works at his family’s Mexican restaurant, Hector’s, said.“We get orders late and don’t get all the supplies and merchandise we ordered. We get things we are missing at United Supermarket and Walmart.”

Longshots restaurant and bar manager, Kellie Kinsey, said they have had a stable set of adult employees since before COVID.

They have been having trouble getting in the food and supplies the restaurant/bar needs

that were ordered weeks or months ago.

Maxine’s clothing store has not had the challenges other stores and businesses have had during COVID. Owner Maxine LaMunyon works at the store by herself and has not had any trouble getting in her orders.

Kristen Meliza’s home interior store has dependable staff, but there are other issues.

“Shipping has been a problem. It takes us a lot more phone calls. Christmas items came in before fall items since they put the container in the wrong slot after being taken off the cargo ship,” she said.“The shipping/ storage fees to the distributer have gone up from $4,500 a slot, to $9,000 a slot, and now to $20,000.” These are then brought to Woodward with increased trucking costs.

Jana Walker is a multi-tasking business owner in Woodward.

She is a CPA with her own accounting business, plus she and her husband own a ranch, the Loft apartment to rent on Main Street, and the new Walker Mercantile Company on Main.

Staffing each of these individual businesses has been challenging. “Some people don’t want minimum wage. They want unemployment since it is higher. Some items we order for the store have taken up to eight weeks to receive. Not all orders are completed. The Made in Oklahoma owners cannot get ingredients, for items such as salsa and pickle, in time to make and package and ship them to stores like ours. Some prices of items we buy have gone up 200%.”

As solutions are not readily available, Walker urges patience this shopping season.

“My advice to shoppers is whenever you go to a private business, realize that employers have tried everything to make things function with less workers and less merchandise,” she said.

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