There was a solid drop in retailers who have struggled with hiring in 2023—77% versus last year’s 92%. And retaining employees has improved, with 81% having difficulties this year compared to 90% last year.

Despite these improvements, respondents and those with whom CSP spoke expressed frustration in the lingering dearth of candidates.

“Candidate behavior has changed dramatically. Ghosting wasn’t a thing in the past,” Anderson said of candidates who fail to show up to a job with no warning to their employer.

Chad Ellis, retail division manager for Williston, North Dakota-based Horizon Resources Co-Op, said it’s challenging to find “committed employees who want to learn and be a part of the co-op.”

To improve the pool of candidates and retain employees, Taylor said Last Minit Mart is considering adjusting its wage scale at a few stores where they are shorthanded. And some states, such as Illinois and Missouri, where Midwest Petroleum operates, are increasing the required minimum wage, Anderson said.

Training is also a challenge, said Ellis, and Horizon Resources must improve the process so when a new employee starts, they know exactly what they’re doing. In the Williston store, there are about 12 employees, and one leaves monthly on average; in a Ray, North Dakota, location, with a staff of 15, they lose three or four workers monthly, he said.

One Horizon Resources location, in Fairview, Montana, rarely has turnover, however, due to management style, Ellis said, adding that hiring issues tend to stem from who’s in charge. “If you have order in the workplace, you’re not going to have chaos,” he said.

Loop Neighborhood Market works with Good Jobs Institute, an organization that helps identify holes in a business and advises opportunities for short- and long-term changes.

“Finding these small nuances that make (employees’ lives) easier versus spending time doing a checklist,” said Pervez Pir, president of retail for Vintners Distributors, Fremont, California, which operates the Loop c-stores.

“Improving (employees') lives like that also helps retention and stabilizes the labor.”

The labor pool is going to get smaller, Pir said, so hustling to find people is important. “They’re applying to five different places, and if you miss a beat, somebody else is going to grab them.”