Bleak labor forecast for seasonal employers

The YMCA says it is being forced to cancel programs as it struggles to find lifeguards. (FOX 9)

Seasonal businesses are preparing for summer, but when it comes to the labor market there’s very little sunshine in the forecast.

The Minnesota unemployment rate dropped to 2.5 percent in March, marking the lowest point since 1999.

As the applicant pool only continues to shrink for employers, seasonal businesses are preparing to operate short-staffed this summer.

"We know it's going to be challenging for a while," said Shannon Kinstler with the YMCA of the Greater Twin Cities. "Right now, we’re doing the best we can."

Kinstler says they are offering several incentives, including sign-on bonuses and referral bonuses. In addition, they’ve lowered the minimum age requirement to 15 for lifeguard duties.

Of the positions in aquatics, 50 percent are currently vacant. In addition, there are more than 200 openings for summer camp workers.

"A majority of our pools are open, but we do close from time to time when we can’t find a lifeguard," said Kinstler. 

She says they’ve had to cut programming due to short staffing, but as they make hires they’ll add it back.

"We’ve had to reduce program size and maybe not offer things as often because we don’t have the staff to do that," she said.

The labor participation rate in Minnesota is 68 percent and slowly improving. The Minnesota Department of Economic Development says it's attempting to increase the number of workers looking for jobs, by investing in training and connecting potential workers with employers.'