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SPECIAL REPORT: An employment bounce back ‘Help Wanted’

The jobs are out there - News 11's April Hettinger tells you where to find them

YUMA, Ariz. (KYMA, KECY) - Americans previously receiving unemployment benefits from the pandemic have now gone more than two weeks without money in their pockets.

Employers in every industry are hiring, and job seekers trying to land that new gig, but there still seems to be a gap in the job market even as extra federal funds are no longer boosting bank accounts.

"Now that the federal unemployment benefit compensation has ended, is that we're seeing job seekers, more job seekers, actually, coming into our job centers," said employment engagement coordinator Mariana Martinez for Yuma County Arizona @ Work.

A popular spot on Martinez Lake, Fisher's Landing Resort, has even had to close its doors for a few days because of an employee shortage, according to bar manager and associate manager, Scott Anderson.

"We haven't been able to replenish because we're competing with the federal government for the most part for employees," Anderson explained. "You know, [another manager] has actually hired folks who have called her back and said, 'yeah, I can make more money sitting at home.'"

Managers are hopeful more people will apply so their loyal employees don't get burned out working overtime.

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Job experts like Edna Cordova, manager of Yuma County Goodwill Career Center, encourages future employees to not get discouraged by employment inconsistency on a resume.

"If you've not worked in a while because of the pandemic, you may find that there is a large gap in your unemployment or your employment history, now's the time to really focus in on yourself," Cordova stated.

Job seekers are motivated by the state's signing bonus incentives.

"What we've also been seeing is the new program that Gov. Ducey put in place, the Arizona Back to Work Program, which is helping individuals getting back to work. Incentives to return to work," Martinez explained. "So, the return to work bonuses that have been put in place, the $2,000 for full-time employment."

For part-time jobs, new hires can get a $1,000 signing bonus awarded after completing a certain number of hours under Gov. Ducey's program.

The unemployment rate in Yuma County during the pandemic was roughly 16.6%, but month after month it has been going down.

"The number of current unemployment recipients right now is 13,263, and our current Yuma County unemployment rate is at 13.9%," Martinez stated.

And, that number is even lower than last month's rate.

"There is a lot of work from home positions that our job seekers are very interested in, as well as our retail, hospitality, a lot of seasonal work right now. So, we're seeing a lot of that," Cordova said. "Our government agencies are also hiring right now at the marine base and the Yuma Proving Ground."

It's also almost peak winter produce season.

"You have positions from every industry, from manufacturing to administration to hospitality, retail, even agriculture," Martinez added.

The timing of available employment is critical.

"Our employer partners at Sunset Health also has job opportunities in Yuma, in San Luis and in Somerton, and again, construction jobs. We see a lot of road work happening," Cordova listed. "There is a big project that's starting."

Construction workers are in high demand because of the U.S. 95 Widening Project.

Fisher's Landing Resort will train grill cooks, no experience necessary. They are only asking for good customer service and a positive attitude.

"We deal with tourists, basically, and even the locals are tourists in the situation that we're in because we're on the river. So, people come here to play on the river, fish on the river and off-road," Anderson explained.

Another local restaurant, Patio Susheria Bar and Grill, is hiring in almost every position: servers, line cooks, sushi chefs and dishwashers, according to manager Edgar Molina.

"We don't really look into prior experiences all that much," Molina said. "As long as you are willing to learn and are coachable, then we have a spot for you."

Other essential jobs lie within the City of Yuma. Police officers certified in Arizona are needed, but there is another important position that doesn't require certification.

"9-1-1 dispatchers are always in demand as well," said Dave Nash, the city's public affairs coordinator. "You work in shifts there, and very busy work but your shift never goes by slowly."

There are other open positions with the city for street maintenance workers and water treatment operators.

Several companies having difficulties filling open positions with this major gap in the job market.

"I've seen a lot of places around town hiring so I don't really know the reason why people aren't getting jobs at this point," Molina stated.

The Goodwill Career Center offers certification programs at no cost, but they also advise job seekers what employers are scouting for in a candidate.

"Customer service goes a long way," Cordova said. "Excellent communication skills, motivational skills, someone who is very positive and ready to get back into workforce."

However, there are still some who are eligible for the unemployment benefits.

"Anyone can go online to see if they qualify, if they are eligible to receive these incentives, and the application for unemployment is all based online," Martinez stated.

A new policy prevents dishonesty since now applications are web-based.

"They are requesting to verify identity," Martinez explained. "Something that wasn't really done before, but now they're verifying identity because there was a lot of fraud that happened in the past year, so we want to make sure that the person, the people that are applying for unemployment, it's actually them."

On October 5, Retail Works Arizona is partnering with the Yuma County Chamber of Commerce for a retail, restaurant and hospitality hiring event from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Four Points by Sheraton Hotel.

Author Profile Photo

April Hettinger

April was born and raised in San Diego where she loved the beach town and her two dogs, Lexi and Malibu. She decided to trade the beach for the snow and advanced her education at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff.

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