Rapid City searches for job applicants amid city’s 10 percent unemployment

RAPID CITY, S.D. — During Wednesday’s Rapid City COVID-19 press briefing, Mayor Steve Allender shared that Rapid City Transit Service still cannot return to normal operation. Though the pandemic has been an issue, with three drivers contracting the virus, the real issue has been due to a staff shortage.

“Not a lot of people looking for jobs today, for some reason where unemployment is around 10 percent in Rapid City, three times normal. We need some people to work city positions ” said Allender.

Thursday, Dept. of Labor and Regulation Secretary, Marcia Hultman, stated in her news release, “I want to remind claimants that not returning to work when there is available work could be considered a refusal of work or voluntary quit, resulting in the loss of benefits. Employees absolutely have the right not to go to work, but that is a personal choice and may impact their employment status.”

It’s not only Rapid Transit that’s suffering from a lack of employees. Other departments are not receiving enough applications from qualified people.

“We have a general citywide hiring difficulty where we are seeing fewer applicants,” Allender said. “And that is potentially hindering our operations.”

City Human Resources can only speculate why there is such an issue, based off talking to members of the community.

One potential reason, according to H.R. Director Nick Stroot, is the attraction of unemployment benefits versus a local government job.

“Federal unemployment benefits is a big factor,” says Nick Stroot, City Human Resources Director. “Six hundred dollars a week for a lot of the jobs, it goes a long way into making a full paycheck for a lot of people and so the lack of motivation that can come from receiving that benefit, we believe, at least through talking with people, is what’s keeping them at home.”

Stroot adds that he’s heard people admit to not moving jobs during the pandemic out of fear of losing stability. Another, the fear of the actual work, as he points out, is the case with Rapid Transit.

“We have many current employees that meet many of the risk categories [COVID-19] who are fearful about the actual type of work that they’re doing” said Stroot.

Though he adds there have been extensive precautionary methods taken by RTS to sanitize buses. But says it’s still close proximity for the driver and the public. To combat those notions, administration is working to entice applicants with great benefits and through marketing strategy.

“Any time we can find an underpaid work group and move them up and get them paid properly, it can only help,” said Stroot.

The city is advertising for jobs online and through trade magazines. You can apply for any of the ten current listings at rcgov.org 

Categories: Coronavirus, Local News