With 60 open positions, city manager says Lawrence is seeing effects of tight labor market, encourages people to apply

Lawrence City Hall, 6 E. Sixth St., Thursday, July 7, 2016

City Manager Craig Owens says the City of Lawrence is feeling the effects of the nation’s tight labor market, and that it has more than double its usual number of job openings.

Owens said the city currently has about 800 full-time employees and more than 60 openings, which he said is more than twice the number of openings the city usually has. He said a lot of the openings are with key critical services, such as police, utilities, solid waste, streets, administration and parks and recreation.

“All of these departments are being impacted,” Owens said. “We just don’t have full staffing.”

Owens said that in some cases the city is not keeping up with attrition, saying that at one point this month he attended four retirements in four days. As the Journal-World recently reported, Owens cited the need to maintain critical staffing levels as one of the reasons for the city’s new policy that requires unvaccinated employees to undergo regular coronavirus testing. When the new policy was announced last week, about 80% of the city’s employees were vaccinated. The new policy also includes extra leave for vaccinated employees, allowing them not to draw from their regular sick or vacation time if they become sick with COVID-19 or have to quarantine, or if a family member becomes sick or has to quarantine.

The Lawrence City Commission approved funding for additional city positions as part of its 2021 amended budget and 2022 budget, bringing the city’s total authorized positions to 888 for the coming year. The 2022 budget also includes $5 million in pay raises for both union and nonunion employees, including a 2.5% general wage increase for all employees.

When calling for the raises, city officials cited a previously completed market study as well as a competitive regional labor market. The unemployment rate in Kansas is currently 3.8%, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s lower than the national unemployment rate of 5.2%.

Some of the current open positions on the city’s website include planner, electrician, solid waste loader, engineer, mechanic, police officer, utility operator and director of human resources, among others.

Owens noted the city has a variety of types of positions open, and he encouraged the community to check out the job openings on the city’s website, lawrenceks.org/jobs.

“We want great people, particularly people that are already here in our community, to join our team and help us in this work,” Owens said.

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