BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) _ The increasingly difficult task of filling job openings for businesses in North Dakota is pushing some owners to make drastic changes to their operations and in some cases even close.

Workforce needs have been a struggle in the state for several years, but the labor supply is even thinner these days, the Bismarck Tribune ( ) reported Sunday. And even when businesses manage to hire employees, there’s no guarantee that the newly employed will show up.

Mandan’s Harvest Brazilian Grill closed on the weekdays for a week during the summer because it didn’t have enough workers. Manager Edgar Oliveira said he’s almost back to normal hours, except that he will have to remain closed Tuesdays in addition to his normal days off. That leaves the restaurant open from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 to 9 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday.

“It’s something we don’t have a choice on unless we get more personnel,” Oliveira told the newspaper. He added that the restaurant used to have 28 full- and part-time employees. Now there are only 15.

A symbol of the labor shortage is a sign on Bismarck’s downtown Dairy Queen that reads: “Closed. No workforce.”

The store manager, Roberta Johnson, said the joint has closed annually during the winter months, but for the last several years it’s been forced to close earlier than usual.

“It’s not just us. It’s everybody. Kids don’t want to work like they used to,” Johnson said.

Many employers say another issue is the workers’ reliability. They said a worker may show up for a couple of shifts, but never come back.

The owner of Montana Mike’s at the Seven Seas Hotel in Mandan, Shannon Gangl, said his decision to close the steakhouse Sept. 7 was partially fueled by the staffing challenges.

“With the workforce where it is, for a long time now I haven’t been able to hire,” he said. Gangl explained that he used to get four or five applicants for an opening, but now he’s lucky if he gets one applicant for four or five openings.

Gangl will use the extra space for his growing convention clientele. Without the restaurant, Gangl said he will be able to provide convention meal space and a free continental breakfast he couldn’t provide before.

North Dakota has the nation’s lowest unemployment rate at 2.8 percent, in part because of the boom in oil production that has created thousands of jobs in recent years.


Information from: Bismarck Tribune,