COLUMBIA, S.C. — Phillip Gunter has been a small business owner in Eastover for nearly 11 years. He said the most challenging years have been the last two.
He said on top of the challenges of inflation and supply chain issues are staffing shortages.
“Most of the time it's just kind of slow, as you can tell,” Gunter said, while gesturing to his empty storefront. Slow business has caused him to cut hours.
Nearly every day, his duties as Mayor are put on hold to step in for employees.
“I come out of the town hall at times to run over there right quick, so sometimes we're on call to make everything happen at that store," said Gunter.
Gunter tells News 19 he's bumped wages to attract and keep employees, but it's no match to big box stores.
“They starting off paying people $18 to $22 an hour at a convenience store, but a small business like mine, we can’t offer as much," said Gunter.
It's a difficult situation many businesses currently face, which is why the State Department of Employment and Workforce (DEW) launched a new task force Wednesday.
Its goal is to solve South Carolina's labor force participation, which they say is one of the lowest in the country.
Low labor force participation means there's a low number of people seeking work compared to a high number of jobs available across the state.
The task force is compiled of 13 members
Professor at University of South Carolina's Darla Moore School of Business Dr. Orgul Ozturk is a member of the task force. Ozturk has studied labor force participation of women and the disabled, and their occupational match quality and analyzed effects of minimum wages laws and regulations such as occupational licensing rules on health care access.
"I think, when you're trying to make policy changes, or when you're trying to solve a problem, you need to understand what the problem is first, right?," asked Ozturk.
The task force will start by collecting data on job seekers and business to discover which industries are struggling, what factors are at play, and who is missing from the workforce.
"These are the problems that are not going to go away. It's not it's not pandemic, it is been a trend," said Ozturk.
The task force will meet again in April and plans to release their findings in the fall.
Members of the Task Force include:
- Dr. Aspen Gorry, Clemson University
- Dr. Orgul Ozturk, University of South Carolina
- Dr. Frank Hefner, College of Charleston
- Dr. Laura Ullrich, Federal Reserve
- Ron Hetrick, EMSI
- Dr. Chris Chmura, Chmura Economics
- Julia Pollak, ZipRecruiter
- Dr. Kory Kantenga, LinkedIn
- John Uprichard, CEO, Find Great People
- Frank Rainwater, Executive Director, S.C. Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Office
- Dr. Mike Mikota, President, Spartanburg Community College
- Dr. Bryan Grady, Labor Market Information Director, S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce
- Dr. Erica Von Nessen, Research Economist, S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce