The Orangeburg area labor market has plentiful job opportunities, but inflationary pressure is requiring employers to increase pay and be creative in attracting workers.

At Orangeburg’s Fairey Cheverolet, General Manager Joseph Fairey IV said keeping staff has been the biggest challenge.

“We have had more turnover in our store in the last two-year period than I have experienced by far in any span in the 15 years that I have been here,” Fairey said. “Lots of near-retirement-age employees have left and some, but not all, have been replaced.”

“Because our store has a low turnover rate relative to our industry, many of these were long-tenured employees that have been hard to replace,” Fairey said. “We have had replacements leave after a very short time, but generally have not had a hard time finding applicants.”

The dealership has 24 full-time employees, down from 28 before the COVID-19 pandemic.

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“We could stand to add a few more people but are fairly close to fully operational,” he said.

Technician positions are open, along with two sales positions due to lack of vehicle inventory.

In order to attract employees, Fairey said the dealership has had to become more flexible regarding family demands that come up unexpectedly.

“Our base pay for basically every position has risen to help employees keep up with inflationary pressure and competing job opportunities,” he said.

Another challenge facing the dealership and the auto industry in general remains supply-chain issues.

“Supply-chain constraints have reduced our year-over-year new vehicle shipments by over 20%,” Fairey said. “Parts and component shortages and delays have severely affected our shop proficiency as well.”

“We have been booked solid on our service schedule for two weeks in advance most of the year, so demand has been strong. But completing jobs in a timely matter is a huge challenge in this environment,” Fairey said. “Thankfully, we have a great group of resilient employees and customers are understanding and patient for the most part.”

Orangeburg County Chamber of Commerce President James McQuilla said staffing remains a “dilemma” for Orangeburg businesses.

“Many business owners say that they can find workers, however, retaining workers has become the problem,” McQuilla said. “Additionally, depending on the industry, finding employees that have the education, aptitude or skill set necessary to meet a company’s needs may still prove to be problematic.”

As a result, McQuilla said business owners and human resource managers are having to be more creative and innovative in their hiring practices.

“The market favors the employee over the employer, so not understanding that the paradigm has shifted could be quite detrimental to a business,” he said.

“You really have to think outside the box,” McQuilla said. “Perhaps, higher wages (and lower profits) are the answer. Perhaps flexible hours or remote opportunities when possible.”

McQuilla said he would not be surprised if more opportunities start opening up for senior citizens.

“One of my ‘radical’ suggestions is to see if there can be an expansion of the Federal H2A program for guest or migrant workers, especially in the hospitality and restaurant industry,” he said.

Orangeburg County YMCA Executive Director Demetrius Hardy said the employee situation has seen “marginal improvement” over the past year.

“We are still short-staffed in the water park,” Hardy said, adding that the Y was only able to open the water park one day a week in Orangeburg and one day a week in Santee this summer. This was the same as in 2021.

Hardy said the perennial problem is that lifeguards require a two-year certification and if individuals do not get recertified, then they cannot be on staff. He said a number of lifeguards moved on to college internships and paid internships, leaving lifeguard duties behind.

In addition to lifeguards, Hardy said there are general staffing needs, especially at the front desk where members sign in and register. He said most of these individuals are in the college age groups and are athletes at local universities who are not available after the summer. Childcare team members are also needed.

Hardy said in order to increase employment, a wage increase was implemented across the board. But with the Y being a nonprofit, such increases have to be done with care in order to not have to increase membership fees.

Hardy said the Y is partnering with the Orangeburg County School District and local universities and colleges to try to attract young people to become lifeguards.

The Y is also looking for local businesses to help sponsor training for a lifeguard at a total of $225 to become certified, he said. The goal is to train and certify 50 new lifeguards and swim instructors this fall.

The training is a three-day course that entails both in-water and in-classroom training. He is hoping sponsorships will encourage those who are interested in becoming a lifeguard but who cannot afford the cost of certification.

“We are looking to build up the next generation of lifeguards,” Hardy said, adding that he is working with 14 and 15-year-olds with basic water skills in hopes to lay the groundwork for lifeguard certification.

Anyone interested in becoming a certified lifeguard is encouraged to come to YMCA and to begin the process.

In honor of Labor Day, Hardy recognized all employees working at the Y.

“We certainly appreciate all the efforts people make to work here,” he said. “If you work at the YMCA for the paycheck, you are not going to stay around very long. You have to find joy in the small moments of success and comfort.”

For example, he says one thing he enjoys is being able to share times where individuals have experienced health benefits and well-being by being a member of the Y.

“Our members become like an extended family,” Hardy said.

Calhoun Oil Company Inc. President Boyd McLeod III said things have improved since last summer.

Calhoun Oil oversees convenience stores in Orangeburg, Calhoun and Sumter counties. The company also operates two Bojangles restaurants — one in Orangeburg and another in Santee.

“We saw a dramatic increase in applications start in March,” McLeod said. “We have seen turnover but we are also seeing more prospects.”

“We continue to struggle at some stores with first-shift employees,” he said. “We also probably need a few management personnel, but I attribute it to age retirement vs. turnover.”

“We are working on implementing new procedures to help bring on employees and communicate,” McLeod said. “We have done some of the same things many retailers have done to try and attract employees.”

McLeod said the company has also increased wages since COVID began.

“Trucking has definitely improved,” he said. “Last year we struggled with keeping up with demand because no one was flying and demand was at an all-time high. This year demand is below 2019 levels and trucking issues have waned.”

“I contribute lower demand to high fuel prices and record numbers of people flying. This has slowed fuel sales,” he said. “Our stores are still short employees but sales have returned to more normal numbers vs. last year.”

The latest unemployment rates had Bamberg County with the third highest jobless rate in the state at 6.4% for the month of July. This was down from 8.6% last year at the same time. Last year, Bamberg County had the state’s highest unemployment rate for July.

Orangeburg County’s unemployment rate for July was 5.8%, which is down from the 7.9% it had in July 2021. The county had the state’s fourth-highest unemployment rate.

South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce Labor Market Information Director Dr. Bryan Grady noted while jobless rates have gone down compared to a year ago, both counties remain among the highest in the state, “indicating that the extremely tight labor market seen elsewhere in the state has not reached these areas.”

Calhoun County’s rate for July was 3.5%, which is down from the 4.9% rate in July 2021. Calhoun County was tied for the state’s 18th highest unemployment rate. Chesterfield and Lancaster counties had the same rate.

Grady said job opportunities are much more plentiful for job seekers compared to a year ago.

“Within the Lower Savannah workforce development area (which includes The T&D Region) according to our Labor Supply versus Labor Demand analysis, there were 11,853 job postings in July 2022, compared with 7,419 in July 2021,” Grady said. “Whereas there was roughly one job posting per unemployed person a year ago, there are now more than two.”

Grady says firms are continuing to have trouble hiring particularly in traditionally low-wage jobs like food service.

“With the rate of job openings well above prepandemic levels (167,000 statewide in June, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics), workers have more options and can find a job that pays more, offers added flexibility, or otherwise better meets their needs,” Grady said. “Businesses unable to make competitive offers are likely to suffer.” has a new special: $1 for 26 weeks

Grady said labor demand continues to be as high as it was a year ago, though the available labor pool continues to shrink.

“It is important to note that there are two sides to the coin. However, a “labor shortage” means that employers are extremely eager to hire,” Grady said. “This means the state’s economy is continuing to grow at a robust pace.”

Grady said continued interest rate hikes by the Federal Reserve will likely cool the labor market to some degree over the next year.

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