Communities Hit Hard by Worker Shortage

Finding good employees has always been a challenge for business owners.

After a record-high spike in unemployment during the peak of the pandemic, many economists expected employers would finally enjoy a hiring environment where eager employees would be plentiful once restrictions lifted and COVID relief checks stopped coming.

But, like so many other industries, the manufactured home community industry is finding this not to be the case.

In fact, community managers finding it harder than ever to hire full and part time staff.

“We’ve definitely had difficulty finding subcontractors,” said Bill Gonzalez of Walterboro MHC. “And when we were able to hire someone, they wanted a much higher hourly rate, or you ended up with Moe, Larry and Curly.”

The worker shortage impacted even large community management companies – those with more resources and platforms to attract employees, according to YES! Communities Regional Vice President Kim Racke.

“We tried a virtual job fair, SC Works, Indeed, Craigslist, even bandit signs,” she shared. “We hired only one maintenance employee.”

David Benton of Gentry MHP in North Charleston reported difficulty finding workers with specific skills.

“Electricians and HVAC professional haven’t been an issue, but remodel contractors and maintenance are,” Benton said. “We’ve run adds for months and still nothing. It seems the guys who do good work at good prices have the work and parks pay less than homeowners. It’s a tough problem to solve.”

Many community owners and managers are turning to outside help rather than relying on employees.

“We are having to use contractors instead, and we’re paying dearly for it,” Racke said.

The Cause is Unclear     Economists are divided about the cause – and more divided on the solution.

According to one NPR report, US Department of Labor researchers studied the impact of unemployment figures in the two dozen states who cut benefits in June or early July.

In those states, mostly Republican controlled, elected officials were hearing from business owners who complained the generous unemployment benefits and federal stimulus checks were discouraging people from looking for jobs.

Policy makers in those states, like South Carolina, where benefits were cut off early, were hoping to see more people head back to work. But what researchers found surprised many elected officials and economist, alike. In those early cut-off states, instead of rush back into the job market, workers were only slightly more inclined to return to their jobs than in states where the benefits kept going.

Still, the experience of some MHISC members has led them to conclude the extended benefits kept people at home.

“People would apply then never show up for either virtual or in-person interviews,” Racke reported. “I suspect they were just reporting that they are looking in order to get unemployment.”

Ian McCormick of Smart Assets, LLC in Greenville may have summed it up best.

“We are struggling with this in a big way,” McCormick said. “Sadly, we end up paying more for everything.”