Customer Care Center To Close For Lack Of Workers

TAMPA, Florida (AFP) – A Florida-based firm will soon close one of its North Dakota offices for a reason that seems unfathomable during the deepening US recession: it can’t find enough employees to hire.

Sykes Enterprises, which specializes in creating and maintaining computer customer care services for corporations, opened a telephone call center in Minot, North Dakota in 1996. Last May, management wanted to increase the number of employees to 450.

Yet an unexpected thing happened: so few people applied for the Minot jobs that the Tampa-headquartered company will have to close the call center on May 10 — a cutback by Sykes that will result in 200 people losing their jobs.

“We’ve been working for several months there (in Minot) to find enough applicants for the work, since we have been experiencing significant growth in the US,” said Sykes spokeswoman Andrea Burnett.

She also told AFP that Sykes advertised for many months in the local Minot electronic and press media for applicants.

The state of North Dakota has bucked the national trend which has seen the US economy hemorrhage 651,000 jobs in February, pushing the unemployment rate to a 25-year high of 8.1 percent and pointing to an ever-deepening recession.

But the unemployment rate in North Dakota stood at just 5.1 percent, one of the lowest in the nation.

And Minot in particular has been seemingly recession-proof with the city’s economy being based on agricultural commodities and oil production, and with it being the home town of a US Air Force base. The micro-economies of all three are productive, leading to Minot’s economic healthiness.

Geography, demographics and weather may have kept outsiders from applying for the jobs. The sparsely populated state of just 640,000 residents is in the far northern Great Plains, one of the remotest regions in the contiguous United States.

Parts of North Dakota, including the northwest where Minot, a city of about 40,000, is located, can be as cold as Alaska during winter months.

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