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Help Wanted: Looking for labor in a tight market

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With unemployment at historic lows, some area positions are tough to fill.

OUTLOOK PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - McMenamins employee Nancy Spangler carries a tray of bread through the crowded kitchen at the Black Rabbit Restaurant at Edgefield resort in Troutdale. The brewing giant is gearing up for the busy summer season, when it boosts its employee numbers. But with unemployment rates at all-time lows, it's getting harder for companies to find qualified workers. "Help Wanted" signs are popping up around the Gresham area like spring flowers, and historically low unemployment in Oregon has sent some local employers scrambling to find enough high-caliber workers for their businesses or agencies.

OUTLOOK GRAPHIC: JOSH BRADLEY - 'Now Hiring' signs are popping up throughout the metro area.Oregon added about 2,400 new jobs in March, pushing the state's unemployment rate down to 3.8 percent, the lowest since records started being kept 41 years ago. In Multnomah County, it's an even tighter 3.2 percent. Nationally, the unemployment rate dipped to 4.4 percent in April, a 10-year low.

"It always makes it challenging when unemployment is low," said Lisa Kinsley, McMenamins general manager for human resources. The regional collection of restaurants, resorts, brew pubs and music venues hires "a ton of seasonal workers in the summer," she said, including several hundred at the busy Edgefield resort in Troutdale.

Employers in a broad range of fields say that makes it harder to find good employees than it was a few years ago. Oregon businesses reported 50,800 job vacancies at any given time in 2016. A new report from the Research Division of the Oregon Employment Department finds that employers classified nearly two-thirds, 64 percent, of those job vacancies as difficult to fill.

"Our professional hiring is not really affected," said Tad Dierckes, director of manufacturing operations at ON Semiconductor in Gresham, but the computer chip maker is finding it challenging to hire enough machine operators. "The low unemployment is the primary reason."



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