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Opinion
Palm Coast Wednesday, Apr. 28, 2021 1 week ago

Opinion: Don't blame government. Here are other factors that make it hard to hire in Palm Coast

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'A business that pays less than $15 per hour is going to have a hard time finding someone to take the job unless the person is willing to work two shifts.'
by: Guest Writer

Dear Editor:

Your story on businesses’ hiring trouble focused on those who blame the government for competing with the business community for lower paid employees by providing increased unemployment benefits. But the story failed to account for other factors.

Nearly 50 years ago, I managed an office supply store in South Florida. Broward County, much like Flagler County today, was in the midst of a real estate boom. More and more people retired to South Florida, and there were fewer and fewer young people entering the workforce and taking entry-level jobs. 

I recall the months and months when I advertised for help wanted for delivery drivers and furniture installers and did not have one person apply. I frequently hired any person who walked in the door and filled out an application. And we were offering starting pay 25% to 40% higher than the minimum.

The second aspect is the availability of affordable housing. Flagler County is having the same problems as Broward County had in the 1970s. Fifteen years ago, prior to the recession, around 15% of Palm Coast homes were rentals. Speculators took advantage, building homes and renting them out as the property values increased, then selling them off during the recession. Also, many Palm Coast workers who were suddenly out of work due to the recession found themselves unable to pay the mortgage and were forced into foreclosure. Many of the workers who were renting homes, and those foreclosed, left the area in search of jobs. 

What we are left with today is a lack of homes or apartments for rent in Palm Coast. A search of the rental market shows few homes available for less than $1,200 per month. 

According to BankRate.com, no more than 28% of pre-tax monthly income should go to pay for housing. Using this formula for a rental home, a worker would need a pre-tax income of $4,300 per month, or $1,075 per week. Working a 40-hour week, that comes out to $26.88 per hour. A business that pays less than $15 per hour is going to have a hard time finding someone to take the job unless the person is willing to work two shifts. There are just not enough young people living at home to take those low-paying jobs, or young couples with each wanting to work at a low-paying job, and that's if they could find an affordable place to live.

Another aspect is young people themselves, fresh out of high school.  When I graduated from high school, college was not an option, nor was it for a number of my friends. We all entered the workforce, taking any jobs available. We did not have the option of government loans to pay for college as kids have today. A much greater proportion of kids are now going to college and not entering the low-paying workforce.

The last aspect, the proverbial “elephant in the room,” is the Trump administration closing the border to Mexico, reducing the number of legal immigrants allowed into the country, and deporting illegal immigrants. 

These are hundreds of thousands of people who gladly take low-paying jobs, jobs for the most part not wanted by much of the American labor force. Everything from garbage collectors, poultry plant workers, stoop labor for vegetable and fruit picking, etc. 

Interestingly enough, it is not just low paying jobs that are going unfilled.  Recently, the city of Palm Coast had 18 job openings listed on their website, paying $13.56/hour to $15/hour as well as jobs starting at $51,000, $67,000, and even $71,000 per year!

Richard Decker

Palm Coast

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