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Worker shortages at businesses both large and small a growing concern

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Clockwise from top, Safran Aerospace and Albany International, Index Packaging and the Governor's Inn are all feeling the pinch hiring and retaining workers. (Courtesy photos)

ROCHESTER - Safran Aerospace is offering $500 sign-on bonuses. Albany International is looking to hire technicians who earn $15 an hour to start with shift differentials. And at Index Packaging where they're trying to grow their workforce President Mike Wiles says the past 18 months "have been the most challenging ever" since they moved to Milton 37 years ago.

From multi-national corporations to family owned businesses and everything in between employers in the Rochester area are experiencing one of the tightest labor markets in history.

It's easy to figure out why. Unemployment in Strafford County is at historic lows, at 2.3 percent in May.

"It's definitely harder this year," said Herman Ejarque, who co-owns The Governor's Inn, the Steak and Ale pub and The Garage.

Right now Ejarque said they're looking to hire a bookkeeper, administrative assistant, and as almost always, bartenders, busboys and dishwashers.

At Index Packaging where new hires can make $12-$13 hour, get health benefits after 60 days and 401k matches after a year, not to mention plenty of OT, Wiles said worker retention has become the most difficult part of his job.

He said hiring hasn't been the problem, in part, because with the booming economy unemployment insurance now runs out at 13 weeks without the six month extension formerly authorized when unemployment was high. But retention is a different story.

"In the last 18 months, we've grown 10 percent," Wiles said. "We needed to hire 28, but the likelihood of bringing in 28 over six months and retaining them is very difficult."

However, he added, "If they stay a year or two, they stay for the long term."

While most jobs at Safran or Albany International usually require some factory experience, at Index they'll train anyone willing to work.

"A kid graduating out of high school is a perfect match," he said. "We'll hire and train them."

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