Employers struggle to find workers who can pass drug tests

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COLUMBIA - Economic growth is preventing some mid-Missouri employers from finding employees who can pass a drug test.

Job Finders in Columbia hosts about 10 job fairs each month, screening each applicant for drugs. Vice President Guy Hulen says the drug screening failure rate within his company is the worst he's seen in 20 years.

 "In 2015, we were having a great deal of difficulty finding people who could pass the drug test," Hulen said. "It was up to five and six out of 10 that were failing. At one time, we had an office that had eight out of 10."

This data reflects national findings from Quest Diagnostics, a company that conducts drug testing worldwide. Across the United States, the use of marijuana increased by 14.3 percent from 2013 to 2014.

"Upsurge in marijuana, cocaine, and methamphetamine drive second consecutive year of increases in the positivity rate of drug tests, suggesting a potential reversal in a decades' long decline in workforce drug use," one Quest Diagnostics study said.

One map showing drug use in each state indicates mid-Missouri had some of the highest positive urine test results in 2014. Local employers are still dealing with this trend today.

"We literally sometimes have individuals walk in and they smell like they've just been involved in smoking marijuana," Hulen said.

One reason could be a surplus of jobs. Job Finders knows of over 190 job openings in Mexico, Mo., 200 openings in Columbia and about 250 job openings in the Jefferson City and Fulton area. Those same cities are experiencing an increase in drug use, though.

"Jeff City and Fulton do have an increase in the number of individuals that fail. I think that may be because there's more rural areas," Hulen said.

Hulen thinks because there are more jobs than candidates, some people might not be as worried about failing a workforce drug test.

"There's a lot of jobs out there," he said. "There's actually not a lot of candidates that want to work for those jobs. Even though they know coming into Job Finders that they're probably going to have to drug test, we have a lot of people fail."

MBS Textbook Exchange in Columbia hasn't noticed this upward trend in drug use among job applicants, but it has had other hiring problems.

"What I've seen is that we've had more instances of people not able to pass the background screen based on our parameters," Jerome Rader, Vice President of Human Resources at MBS, said.

Not all employers in mid-Missouri require mandatory drug testing. Hulen said some small businesses are willing to bypass a drug screen because of the cost.