One of the things that I have noticed recently is a lack of folks to fill positions at the lower end of the wage scale. Everywhere that I look, I see places looking to hire. So, we now have a second pressure on our economy and they are at least partially linked. Housing prices and availability definitely lead to challenges with hiring entry and low level employees.
From the employees standpoint, they struggle to make enough money to live here in Sonoma County. Let’s take a look at the new minimum wage of $15 per hour. At best this leads to $860 per month to pay for housing. In Sonoma County, this equates to a room for rent. This means that there needs to be a lot of roommates or people living in family situations of some sort. If I go the other way around, $26 per hour is a much more reasonable rate for a person to be able afford an apartment in Sonoma County. In case you are curious, I am using a 33% spend on Housing and $1,500 a month for an apartment.
One of the problems is that our lack of building means that prices on rentals and occupancy is high. Perhaps in the future we can use the SMART train as part of the answer, but probably not until Phase 2. Housing prices decline as you move away from San Francisco, but long commutes make jobs untenable. The challenge that I see is that at the proposed prices even the SMART train may not be viable. If you are talking about $9.50 a trip, that equates to transport costs of about $570 a month. That is a lot of money and does cover any costs of getting to and from the train. It also only really works for 8 – 5 jobs and many of the lower end jobs work on a different schedule.
The long term solution for people at the low end of the pay scale is to make themselves more valuable. The best way to pursue that is education or training of some kind. There are plenty of positions available in Construction that could become a better career over time. But if you want something more immediate, consider Sales. Good Sales People are always valuable and Sales experience is transferable between markets.
If you are an employer, you can also use this to attract and retain better people. How can you set up their employment to help them to get to better jobs over time? Can you provide additional value without providing more take home pay? This is where training classes and apprenticeships can be of great value to attract and retain talent.
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