Cape Employers Struggle to Fill Jobs as Unemployment Rate Continues to Drop

HYANNIS – The unemployment rate on Cape Cod continues to fall and employers are scrambling to fill available positions.

The rate for May was down to 3.9 percent from 4.2 percent last May and 4.6 percent in April.

Cape & Islands Workforce Development Board Executive Director David Augustinho said the prospects for any significant number of new workers in the region are slim, including seasonal jobs in landscaping and the hospitality industry, along with year-round service industry positions.

“It sounds like it is a great rosy picture when unemployment is low,” Augustinho said.

“When you add on top of that the difficulties with the H-2B program, and even the J1 program, our employers are hurting.”

The unemployment rate on Nantucket was 3.3 percent for May, down slightly from last year and almost 2 percent lower than April. The Martha’s Vineyard rate was up slightly from last May, but down 1.2 percent from April to 4.5 percent.

“I have no idea where they can go from there,” Augustinho said. “We aren’t even in our busiest time – these are May numbers. What they heck are we going to do in July and August.”

Augustinho said the Workforce Development Board and the Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce are trying to help seasonal employers by bringing workers to the region from hurricane ravaged Puerto Rico.

“I know that some individuals have come to the Cape,” he said. “That’s one potential source.”

Augustinho said the Workforce Development Board is continuing to work with unemployed individuals through its career center, but they help a majority of individuals during the winter months.

“When it gets to be spring and they can get a job they go out and get a job – which is wonderful and that’s what we are trying to do anyway,” he said. “But it’s not like we have a lot of bodies hanging around that we can skill up and send to our employers.”

Another solution being discussed is recruiting the over 55 community for part-time positions.

“One of the barriers is that a lot of the jobs in the hospitality sector, specifically, are not particularly well-suited for older workers,” Augustinho said. “Being on your feet for a number of hours a day and carrying heavy trays and such is not the best scenario for older workers.”

The unemployment rate for Plymouth County was 3.5 percent for May. That rate was down 0.4 percent from last May and up by 0.1 percent from April.

The state rate is 3.3 percent.

By BRIAN MERCHANT, CapeCod.com NewsCenter

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