The labor shortage is contributing to the economic woes of business owners in the Gardner area

GARDNER – Statewide labor shortages have created a disconnect between finding unqualified applicants and finding qualified candidates for companies in the Gardner area.

Since the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, local employers have struggled to find people who match their job requirements.

“One of the problems that many companies face is that they can’t find qualified applicants,” said Michael Gerry, executive director of the Greater Gardner Chamber of Commerce. “I see a real mismatch between qualifications and applicants.”

In June, the national unemployment rate was 3.6%, compared to 5.46% last year and more than 10% two years ago. Last month, unemployment in Massachusetts fell to 3.5% from a pandemic-related peak of 17.1% in April 2020, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Therefore, recruiting workers is more difficult than before.

Gardner has evolved over the years into a bed-sharing community for people commuting to Fitchburg and other major cities in the Gardner area. That shift has resulted in the loss of several manufacturing businesses, Gerry said.

“I think people are aware of the cost of commuting now,” he said, “I think so [the commuters] certainly trying to work either closer to where they live or remotely and that causes some problems finding qualified people in the area.”

Michael Gerry

Last week, US Senator Elizabeth Warren visited Gardner to participate in a panel discussion on the economy and federal relief efforts. The labor crisis kept most local business owners busy.

Tina Sbrega, president of Lighthouse Biz Solutions, a subsidiary of GFA Federal Credit Union, said several businesses in the area — particularly restaurants — were still on the verge of closure due to the current labor shortage.

“I don’t know if anyone has the answer to that, but I think the realization is that there’s still a lot of fighting out there,” she said, “and I’m sure you’re well aware of that.” ”

More:Sen. Elizabeth Warren discusses labor shortages and childcare at Gardner

U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren, center, meets with city and business leaders August 22, including Gardner City Council President Elizabeth J. Kazinskas, left.

Another local business person, Patti Bergstrom, owner of The Velvet Goose and president of Gardner Square Two, said the closure has been very difficult for her small business.

“We’ve grown from three employees plus me to a third of one employee plus me,” Bergstrom said. “But as tough as the last two years have been, now it’s harder than ever.”

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