PHOENIX - Some Valley business owners are scratching their heads.
They don't understand why more people aren't applying for their jobs even though the unemployment rate hovers at 9.7 percent.
Take Glenn Fahringer, owner of Earth Care , a landscaping company in Cave Creek.
“The biggest challenge we've been having is hiring qualified people,” he explained.
He wrote ABC15 news letting us know about his available openings, and says he can’t understand why on the news he hears about Arizona’s high unemployment rate and yet he can’t seem to fill his vacancies.
“The last few times we've run ads we've had very poor response. Everyone saying they are laying people off, we figured we would have a lot of applicants but we've had very few. I'm a little surprised; I don't know why we are not able to get more applicants contacting us.”
It's a similar predicament for Michael Hayes, who owns Momentum Staffing ; he helps businesses find workers.
“We've been looking for a couple positions that I deem as we should be able to fill fairly quickly and there's just no one coming into the office,” said Hayes.
One of the jobs he can’t fill, a sales position, features a $30,000 base salary with a commission plan and car allowance.
Hayes said when he e-mailed and called the few people who applied, no one got back to him.
“I am surprised and if I could figure it out I would probably be a millionaire.”
Even the Department of Economic Security has been having a hard time filling some vacancies and that’s the department that oversees unemployment.
Steven Meissner, DES Director of Communications said, “We'd schedule them for interviews and they wouldn't show up.”
As I was putting this story together I wondered about retail. I even popped into my news unit and decided that for just one hour I would cruise around to see if I could find any jobs.
How easy is it to find work?
I went to the strip mall near ABC15’s studios at 44th Street and Thomas Road in Phoenix.
I walked into nearly every store to discover most of them are hiring.
Target, Ross and Costco all told me they are offering several part time jobs right now.
These are seasonal jobs that often come as we approach the holidays.
Employment experts in the past have explained that for some workers, a seasonal gig can turn into a full time position depending on the needs of the company.
Sears also had seasonal jobs available, 25 of them.
Famous Footwear, OfficeMax and Petco also have open positions.
David Warren says he was unemployed for just two and a half weeks when he landed the job at Petco.
Warren gave his tip for standing out, “After I applied online I came to the store, it really helps to show that you want the job, you'll take time out of your day to go to the store let them know your name and your face.”
It was the same strategy Nate Calderwood used after losing his job as a waiter.
“Two days later I came into Starbucks and they hired me on the spot so I think it is presenting yourself and really wanting the job.”
So what is going on? How can it be that with so many people out of work some local employers are saying they are not seeing job seekers rushing to their available positions?
There’s some like the homeless 19-year-old, "Twitchy" I met on Tempe’s Mill Avenue.
“I ain't looking for a job because the job ain't looking for me,” he said. “I am not looking for work, I am homeless but I would accept a job if it would take me.”
Then there are those like Krystale Daniels, unemployed since December and burnt out from looking.
“Applying for the job, doing all the traveling and then not getting it is stressful,” she says.
Some people told ABC15’s Eric English that they are holding out for better offers.
“They pay really low or just the minimum and sometimes the minimum just doesn't cut it,” said one woman.
Hayes told me, “Well we have had people turn down temporary positions because they said they were getting unemployment.”
But, barring a few exceptions, DES Spokesman Meissner said if you are collecting unemployment, you cannot decline full-time, even part-time work.
“It's supposed to be a bridge until you get your next job but if you are collecting unemployment benefits you don't deserve and you know it that's fraud. If you are using it in any other way you are not using it properly.”
If you find part time work then DES scales back the amount of unemployment you are receiving.
Meissner said he can’t imagine people would pick unemployment over work. The maximum you get is $240 a week, that’s $960 a month, less than minimum wage.
“You can't get comfortable on that kind of money,” Meissner said.
He said a little more than 152,000 people in Arizona are collecting unemployment benefits.
That is less than the 170,000 back in July, but Meissner said some have fallen off the rolls.
That includes 10,000 who have exhausted the full 99 weeks, nearly two years, allowed under the law.
To give you a sense of where Arizona stands, back in December 2008 the total amount of people collecting unemployment