Weld County employers having trouble filling jobs amid oil, gas boom

Associated Press

Weld County employers are struggling to fill openings amid the oil and gas boom, with the jobless rate hovering under 4 percent.

The county has gained 3,900 jobs in the first nine months of the year, including 1,900 in the energy and construction industries, the Greeley Tribune reported Saturday.

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The county now has 95,900 jobs, up 21.5 percent since 2010, when the oil and gas boom hit.

"It's got to be one of the tightest labor markets I've ever seen," said Cathy Schulte, senior vice president of Upstate Colorado Economic Development, a not-for-profit group that supports Weld County businesses.

It was not immediately clear what impact declining gasoline prices might have on employment.

The county unemployment rate was 3.8 percent in September, the latest figures available. That is the lowest since September 2001, when it was 3.4 percent.

The county jobless rate hit 10.2 percent in 2010 during the recession.

The Greeley-Evans School District said it is having trouble keeping bus drivers because commercial drivers are in high demand.

School officials say some teachers also have left for higher-paying oilfield jobs.

"We are in a labor shortage," said Kevin Aten, chief human resources officer for the school district. "We're in direct competition for some entry-level jobs. It's here, it's Loveland, it's Fort Collins, northern Colorado, and our friends in Sterling say it's just spreading."

A state jobs website, ConnectingColorado.com, recently listed about 200 openings at Weld County schools, Greeley and county governments, Leprino Foods, the JBS meatpacking plant and other employers.

A call center was offering a $1,000 sign-on bonus for employees hired in November, and a trucking company that serves oilfields was offering a $4,000 sign-on bonus.

Hiring by the energy industry created a ripple effect for other employers, said Gene Haffner, a spokesman for North Colorado Medical Center, which has had trouble filling entry-level positions.

"It wasn't necessarily that our people were leaving the organizations to work in the oil and gas industry as much as it was the domino effect of workers in all kinds of places leaving their organizations," he said.

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Information from: The Tribune of Greeley, Co, http://greeleytribune.com