Simcoe County businesses struggle to fill thousands of job vacancies

Business owners across Simcoe County are looking to hire, with thousands of jobs available but very few takers, with rising inflation, gas prices and the housing crisis helping to block the way.

"If you can't afford to live in Barrie at those lower-paying jobs, you know, what do you do?" said Barrie Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Paul Markle.  

"Everywhere you go, there's a help wanted sign," Markle noted. "I think it's going to be like that for a while."

A report by the County found nearly 12,000 job postings for more than 3,700 companies in April, most in the service-based industry.

"It has been damn-near impossible to find people for working in the Roadhouse, even part-time, full-time," Chuck's Roadhouse manager John Smith said they opened the doors four weeks ago, and finding help has been a significant problem.

"Everywhere is having the same issues," he added. "When you have a quality individual that walks through the door, you have to grab them right away and take full advantage because they may not come back."

"Everybody's looking for somebody," added Allan Lafontaine, Orillia Chamber of Commerce.

Barrie Mayor Jeff Lehman said the issue is impacting businesses across the board.

"I'm hearing it in manufacturing, in construction, skilled trades, so this is a problem across the economy."

He believes the solution is immigration.

"We need more people to come to our country. To come to Ontario, and to come to our region, because our population is not growing all by itself anymore."

Many businesses have resorted to shortening hours, putting managers and owners on the frontlines, and pausing expansion plans because of the labour shortage.

Advocates for local businesses say conditions need to change to get everyone working to keep the economy going.