With the unemployment rate in Loudoun County as low as it’s been in almost a decade, area employers are having to do more to find and retain qualified workers.
Loudoun’s unemployment rate was 3.0 percent in September, according to the latest federal labor department figures. That was lower than any September since 2.9 percent in 2008. The rate can go significantly lower; in September 2000 it was down to 1.3 percent.
Loudoun’s rate is among the lowest in the D.C. region with Arlington County at the bottom at 2.4 percent. Fredericksburg has the highest rate in Northern Virginia at 4.1 percent.
Restaurants and auto repair shops are in particular need of good workers, especially around the winter holidays.
Famous Toastery of Ashburn, which opened in 2016, recently conducted a job fair to attract experienced cooks, hosts, servers and other workers. Shifts that end by 4 p.m. is one key selling point for her business, noted Angela Goodman, who owns the restaurant with her husband, Scott.
“It can be challenging to find good employees, but we have had success retaining great people,” Angela said. “I look for an outgoing personality more than anything, someone who gives off a sense of caring. You can train almost anyone for most every job we have.”
Some employers are offering better benefits, such as more paid vacation and funds for college. At Virginia Tire & Auto shops, which has six locations in Loudoun County, new hires can receive up to three weeks of paid vacation.
“It does take longer to find a new employee these days, but we don’t compromise on hiring,” said Julie Boncarosky Holmes, president of the repair chain.
In good economic times and leaner periods, the key to retaining good people is to treat employees well, said Kevin Bednarz, owner of Ashburn Pub in Ashburn Village Shopping Center. Several of his staff of 12 have worked there for numerous years, including a cook who has remained for some two decades, he said.
“Our employees make good money, and it’s a fun place to work,” Bednarz said. “We want to keep the right people.”
Retailers, grocery stores, and delivery services are among those hiring more people this time of year to help with the holiday shopping season rush. Some new stores have recently opened, such as the Aldi grocer in Broadlands Village Center, which is having a hiring fair on Nov. 28.
The Thanksgiving weekend, with Black Friday and Cyber Monday, is traditionally the biggest shopping weekend of the year as retailers offer better-than-usual sales. Holiday retail sales nationally are expected to increase about 4 percent this November and December over last year to as much as $682 billion, according to the National Retail Federation.
Online sales from Amazon and others are expected to rise about 11 percent to some $140 billion, according to the NRF.