A Wolfeboro bakery needs a baker.

An Epsom auto dealer searches for service technicians.

And the Army National Guard seeks a few good recruits.

Signs posted in store windows, on electronic billboards and along roadways like campaign signs share the same message:

We’re hiring.

What's Working

At least five stores in the same Manchester shopping mall along South Willow Street have signs up to attract workers.

Across the street, an electronic billboard advertises jobs for up to $20.55 an hour at Hitchiner Manufacturing in Milford — more than a half-hour drive away.

“The economy’s gotten so much better,” said Cindy Maine, store manager at Sally Beauty on South Willow. “The fact of the matter is there aren’t so many people out there (looking), and there’s a lot of jobs.”

There were 16,597 online job openings for New Hampshire positions between July 1 and Aug. 31, according to Burning Glass Technologies and New Hampshire Employment Security. That’s actually 3,672 fewer than a year earlier.

Alex Aleman, store team leader for the Ocean State Job Lot in Ossipee, said filling openings is challenging.

Job applicants often don’t show up for scheduled interviews, Aleman said at a state-sponsored job fair in Wolfeboro this month.

“We get ghosted a lot,” Aleman said.

He thinks people set up multiple interviews, then “pick and choose what works best for them. The applicant has the upper hand.”

He’s had to hike the hourly pay by a dollar or two over the past two years. He was hoping to fill up to a dozen openings, including a few full-time positions with benefits.

The state’s jobless rate in August stood at 2.5%, exactly the same as a year earlier.

The Job Center, a staffing agency with an office in Manchester, is using about 50 lawn signs.

“I do see a lot of yard signs out for different companies, not just agencies, but companies themselves,” said Amy Miller, Job Center manager for the New Hampshire region.

She figures her agency is using perhaps 30% more signs, but internet job sites normally bring the most applicants.

Pay is high on people’s minds.

“Money is a huge one that we hear a lot, that the pay is not high enough to survive in the state of New Hampshire,” Miller said.

“It’s a tight market,” Miller said. “A lot of people are still looking for jobs, but they’re looking to make more money.”

Hitchiner Manufacturing has large banners hanging near one of its Milford buildings. It started its electronic billboard campaign on South Willow Street earlier this month.

“We definitely are trying to change up our recruitment efforts and methods,” said Senior HR Generalist Julia Fretwell.

In Wolfeboro, only a couple of people have applied for a baker opening at Gatherings by Stellaloona, and “not necessarily with the background we’re looking for,” said floor manager Debbie Anderson.

“I’m training to bake in case we can’t find anybody,” Anderson said.

Not every hiring sign has an opening behind it.

The Union Leader found two places with posted signs that didn’t actually have any open positions.

“Right now, I’m pretty staffed up,” said Frank Tampasis, owner of Joey’s Diner in Amherst.

“Hiring All Staff” read the sign outside, along with listings for lamb shank and moussaka.

The sign is “so I can create some applications in case something happens” with employees leaving, he said.

In Keene, Silvia Naumburger, owner of Urban Exchange, an upscale consignment boutique, said she didn’t have any openings, but the sign could generate a pool of potential future workers.

Finding new workers takes a variety of methods.

Christine Taylor, human resources business partner for Ocean State Job Lot, said the store gets many of its new workers through the internet and job fairs.

“Some people crave that personal interaction, and some prefer the ease of applying online,” she said at the Wolfeboro job fair.

Sometimes, workers are in your own house.

On Manchester’s West Side, Shagufta Aulakh and her husband, Qaisar Anwar, operate 99 Cent & Cigarette Market on Kelley Street.

They occasionally get help from a daughter in high school and a son in college.

“Whoever is free,” Aulakh said.

One person with plenty of applications was Jennifer Cassidy. She received about a dozen applications in three weeks for a part-time cashier job at County Stores in Milford.

“I expected less because it did seem a lot of places were hiring,” the hardware store manager said.

“A month ago, you could find signs all the way down the strip.”

What’s Working, a series exploring solutions for New Hampshire’s workforce needs, is sponsored by the New Hampshire Solutions Journalism Lab at the Nackey S. Loeb School of Communications and is funded by Eversource, the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, the New Hampshire College & University Council, Northeast Delta Dental and the New Hampshire Coalition for Business and Education.

Contact reporter Michael Cousineau at mcousineau@unionleader.com. To read stories in the series, visit unionleader.com/whatsworking.

Saturday, January 11, 2020
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