Labor shortages in Leavenworth not unique

John Richmeier
The Leavenworth Times

Like other areas of the country, Leavenworth County has been experiencing labor shortages.

"It's been an issue for a while, and it continues to be an issue," said Steve Jack, executive director of the Leavenworth County Development Corporation.

LCDC works to attract new businesses to the county but also works to retain existing local businesses.

Jack said labor shortages are a problem being experienced in communities across the country.

"We're not unique," he said.

Jack said a regional labor study conducted for LCDC in 2020 by the firm MarksNelson indicates there are potential employees available for the Leavenworth and Lansing business markets as well as the Basehor and Tonganoxie markets.

"We know there is some labor out there," he said.

County Commissioner Vicky Kaaz, who represents Leavenworth County on a Workforce Partnership board, said the unemployment rate for the Leavenworth area is close to where it was before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The unemployment rate for Leavenworth County in March 2020 was 4%. By the following month, the unemployment rate had jumped to 12.4%. The unemployment rate in July 2021 was 4.6%, according to the Kansas Department of Labor website.

Despite the recovery in the local unemployment rate, Kaaz said the local labor market is changing.

Kaaz acknowledged some people have not returned to work. But she said others have returned to the labor force with different jobs.

"They're not going back to the jobs they were laid off from," Kaaz said.

Kaaz serves on what is referred to as the CEO board for the Workforce Partnership program that provides employment services for Leavenworth, Wyandotte and Johnson counties. She said this board is made up of elected officials from the three counties.

Kaaz said many people who were laid off last year took advantage of educational opportunities such as certification programs.

She said people were able to change direction and seek higher paying jobs.

Jack said LCDC officials have worked with some local businesses to brainstorm ideas for helping to attract employees.

"Some have literally raised their pay by a dollar an hour," he said.

He said there is no silver bullet for addressing the problem.

People who are receiving unemployment benefits may soon see a change in their benefits.

All federal unemployment programs that were enacted as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic are set to expire this weekend. This includes a program that has provided an additional $300 per week and a program that provided an extension for people who have exhausted their regular unemployment compensation benefits, according to a news release from the Kansas Department of Labor.

The local office for the Workforce Partnership program is located at 515 Limit St. in Leavenworth. The phone number for the office is 913-651-1800. People can contact the office by email, FDLV@workforcepartnership.com. The organization's website is www.workforcepartnership.com.

Twitter: @LVTNewsJohnR