Low Unemployment Has Its Pitfalls Too

Low Unemployment Has Its Pitfalls Too

With the unemployment rate in Loudoun County as low as it’s been in about a decade, area employers are having to do more to find and retain qualified workers.

Loudoun’s unemployment rate was 2.7 percent in December, according to the latest federal labor figures. That was down from 3.0 percent a year earlier, with the last lower figure in December at 2.3 percent in 2007. The rate can go lower; in December 1999 it was down to 0.9 percent.

Loudoun’s rate is among the lowest in Virginia with Arlington County at the bottom at 2.2 percent. Fredericksburg had the highest rate in Northern Virginia at 4.0 percent.

Restaurants and auto repair shops are in particular need of good workers.

Famous Toastery of Ashburn, which opened in 2016, regularly conducts job fairs 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.”

Some new businesses have recently opened, adding to local employment options. Those include an Aldi grocery store in Broadlands Village Center. Lidl, another German discount grocer, plans to open a store near Aldi in March.