HENDERSON, Texas (KETK) – A labor shortage has been crippling the economy and here in East Texas, businesses in smaller towns said they have been having a tougher time finding the right workers.

“Rural, Set, Go Boost!” is a collaborative effort that identifies workforce issues by the county to help with a labor shortage. One of their forums was held Tuesday at the Henderson Civic Center.

“With the rising gas prices, some of my employees had to quit just to find closer jobs,” said Curriculum Director at Excel Preschool, Caitlin Prior.

In the post-COVID era, labor shortages have become a serious issue nationwide. Workforce Solutions of East Texas is helping local businesses find workers to fill critical positions. This organization provides access to training and assistance from staff to help the East Texas job force grow. The problem is the number of unfilled jobs greatly surpasses the number of people without employment.

Director and Senior Research Analyst at UT Tyler, Dr. Manuel Reyes said that according to recent numbers as of April, there are 3.5 million more job openings than unemployed people.

“This is unbelievable because this means you would be able to have 1.5 jobs for every unemployed person,” said Reyes.

Reyes shared that today’s youth are not actively seeking on-location jobs. Social media positions have been on the rise as remote positions became more popular during the pandemic.

“They are not willing to go out and physically work hard as a waiter or waitress, or even find a job at the retail store,” said Reyes.

According to the Hibbs Institute for Business and Economic Research, many job openings in the oil and gas field, manufacturing, and transportation are paying above the average annual wage in Rusk County.

“There are hundreds of job positions in all of our rural areas. Some of the things that we are trying to do is we partner with our communities for recruitment events as well as working in the schools for the youth opportunities,” said Business Services Manager at Workforce Solutions of East Texas, Kim Stacy.

“We will actually see if you qualify to go to school and so that is something we can help as Workforce Solutions East Texas,” said Stacy. As they work on getting East Texans back to work.

Workforce Solutions of East Texas offers benefits like childcare assistance and paid job seeker training for those needing it. For more information, go to www.easttexasworkforce.org.