SEATTLE — When Mike Zebley took a job delivering tools to Seattle-area car shops this year, he quickly learned that what most of his customers needed wasn’t tools so much as people who knew how to use them.
Nearly every shop on Zebley’s route was so hard-up for skilled mechanics that many promised Zebley up to $1,000 for anyone he could recruit. Despite the incentive, however, Zebley hasn’t been able to deliver a single mechanic. “Everybody that I go to needs techs,” he says. “They’re pretty desperate.”
Stop by any garage, car dealership, or body shop — anywhere, Lincoln, included — and you’ll likely hear a similar take on one of the less visible and more revealing labor crunches.
Demand for repairs and maintenance is rebounding from the pandemic. But many garages are so short-staffed they’ve had to delay work or send customers elsewhere — despite, in some cases, offering hefty signing bonuses and six-figure salaries for experienced candidates.
“I would hire two guys today,” says Charles Jung, manager at Fix Auto Collision in Seattle, where lack of staff means about $40,000 in forgone business every month.
At Jakob Lorz’s recently opened garage on Rainier Avenue South, he now has enough business to add a mechanic, but can’t find any. “Everyone that has a job that I know in this industry, they’re getting paid, like, top, top, top dollar,” he says.