Chris Baxter/The Observer Boise Cascade millwrights Dave Fuzi, right, and James Cox adjust the height of a motor in preparation for replacing a sanding head on the No. 2 sander at the Island City particle board plant.
The numbers paint a perplexing picture.
At 6.6 percent, the unemployment rate in Union County is dramatically better than it was at the height of the Great Recession, but it is still 2.1 percent higher than it was just before the economic downturn hit.
Despite the higher jobless rate, several major employers in Union County are having trouble filling positions. Outdoors RV Manufacturing just outside Island City and Northwood Manufacturing of La Grande, which both produce recreational vehicles, are among them.
“We could add 20 to 30 people (at both plants) right away if they were available,’’ Ward King, the chief operating officer for Outdoors RV and Northwood Manufacturing, said.
The pay for these jobs starts at about $10 an hour but an employee can make up to $13 an hour within a month and receive benefits, King said.
He believes Outdoor RV and Northwood Manufacturing cannot meet its labor needs because many people who grew up here leave after graduating from high school.
“People tend to move out (after high school),” King said.
King believes that if more of an effort was made to convince people to stay here after high school the labor pool would deepen.
A shortage of affordable housing, King said, is another factor that is making it difficult for Outdoors RV and Northwood Manufacturing, which are owned by Ron and Sherry Nash, to hire as many people as they would like.
“It is tough to find housing,” King said.
For the complete story see Monday's edition of The Observer.