By BOB MOEN
CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) _ Some businesses in the growing Wyoming economy are having a hard time finding workers in the sparsely populated state and must pay higher wages to attract and keep the ones that are hired.
Officials say the Great Recession resulted in thousands of jobs being lost in the state, particularly in the energy extraction and construction sectors. Many of those workers moved to other states in search of jobs.
However, as the Wyoming economy rebounds, some companies are now looking to expand or move to the state with a low unemployment rate and the fewest residents in the nation.
As a result, businesses are seeing shortages in a variety of different areas, Wyoming Department of Workforce Services Director Joan Evans said.
“I’m not saying it’s a huge problem, but it’s definitely getting more challenging,” added Tom Johnson, a regional director with the Wyoming Business Council.
Many of the workers who remained during the recession are now re-employed. Wyoming’s unemployment rate now stands at just 4.4 percent _ well below the national figure of 6.1 percent.
“What we’re hearing from our businesses is that right now they’re seeing shortages in a variety of different areas depending on where they’re located,” Evans said.
And more jobs openings appear to be on the way.
Magpul Industries, a maker of ammunition magazines for guns, is moving its manufacturing and warehouse operations from Colorado to Cheyenne, creating about 90 new positions.
In Casper, an area with increased oil development, new restaurants are in need of cooks and servers.
Evans said her agency offers training and other programs to help businesses in need of workers. In addition, the department is proactive in linking unemployed people with job openings, she said.
Johnson said the demand for workers puts pressure on businesses to raise wages to compete for available workers.
Johnson and Evans said it’s a good problem for Wyoming.
“I think overall the news is good that we’re seeing opportunities for workers to engage, we’re seeing opportunities for business to grow and expand,” Evans said.