Worker shortage hits critical levels in St. Louis


ST. LOUIS, Mo. – A shortage of workers has reached a critical stage in level in St. Louis.   

Restaurants and coffee shops, for example, have had to close when they’re supposed to be open because they don’t have the staff to cover their shifts.    

STL Design & Build/Windows Direct has hundreds of windows to install but needs to boost its staff of installers by nearly 40%:  about 30 positions.   The jobs pay $80,000 to $100,000-a-year, according to founding partner, Ken Dennison.  

“I’ll hire them.  I’ll train them.  We’ll do what we can to get them rolling but we can’t find them,” he said.  

Missouri’s labor participation rate, the number of people actually looking for jobs, has dropped from 65% July 2020 to 63.9% now even though window sales are strong and unemployment has plunged from 6.8% to 4.2% in Missouri over the same period.   

“We’ve tried going to our suppliers and putting up signs there.  We’ve stood out in front of Home Depot and trying to get guys there.  We are actively, all the time, looking for people,” Dennison said.  

He’s even looking to Afghani refugees re-settling in St. Louis as a potential source of workers.  

On top of everything else, there’s now the loss of part-time summer help:  high school and college students who are going back to school.   

“I went to Starbucks on Saturday morning. Closed, no workers,” Dennison said.  

That Creve Coeur Starbucks has now had to change its store hours because of a staff shortage. In the same shopping center, Dierbergs, St. Louis Bread Company, Talayna’s Pizza, Seoul Taco, and Great Clips are all hiring.   

“I wish I had an answer for where the people are,” said Cheyenne Knotts, the Business Development Manager for the Crown Services staffing agency in Maryland Heights and St. Peters.   

The company Is starting to rebuild its stable of available workers with wages now climbing.   

“$14 (an-hour), $15, $16, and that’s for your basic warehouse light industrial type of work,”  Knotts said.  “Our more skilled positions like welders, machine operators, those can go up to $22-$24 dollars an hour.”  

“There’s work out there and people that are willing to pay it.  Let’s get back to work,” Dennison said.  

Workers, take your pick.   

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