Midlands Business Journal – Article by Michelle Leach
November 27, 2015
A 2.9 percent statewide unemployment rate has created shorter-term opportunities and challenges for employees and employers, with broader, long-term implications.
“I get calls from companies that would love to increase their production or services, but cannot find the people necessary to do the job,” said Nebraska Department of Labor Business Service Representative Debbie Christensen.
In fact, Christensen said the employment environment has changes a great deal, even since the start of the year.
“There are actually more jobs available than there are people applying for them,” she said. “Companies large and small are finding it difficult to find qualified people for all positions, no matter how basic or skilled the position is,” she said. “Many companies were worried about the minimum wage going to $8 an hour in January 1, 2015, but in reality they are having to pay much more that amount to find new hires.”
She said most companies are starting new employees at $10 to $12 for basic, unskilled positions and $14 to $16 an hour for some skilled positions.
“Because the job market has opened up, people are now looking for better jobs that pay more,” Christensen said. “Many people took any job they could find when the economy was bad, and they were under-employed. Now it was turned around and they are looking to improve their situation.”
While substantial layoffs of late in the metro area are unfortunate for employees, she indicated companies are thrilled to get those jobseekers now.
To attract and retain talent, companies are attending more job fairs, holding onsite fairs, paying bonuses to hires, reassessing requirements (i.e. experience and education, pay scale) and benefits packages.
Christensen said some companies are trying to use more staffing agencies.
Tim Washburn owns Express Employment Professional, an employment services and workforce solutions firm.
“Certainly, the unemployment rate dropping has made for competitive workforce and for the labor pool,” he said.
The net has to be cast wider to find candidates – across the board, Washburn said.
He points to all the “now hiring” signs as a highly visible example of how employment environment was evolved.
“It is a consistent challenge,” Washburn said.
The good news for his team: “It has given us a lot of opportunities from companies that didn’t explore staffing before. We are built for it,” he said. “We’re out searching for candidates and sues a variety of techniques to do that.”
It’s been good for his business, as Washburn notes business clients can’t invest the necessary time and energy, nor do they have the in-house resources in this area.
“We help them in their battle,” he said. Singe the latter half of 2015, Joe Grady, vice president of consulting at Noll Human Resource Services said fewer people are making “wholesale career changes,” as they did three to give years ago; however, that’s not to say there isn’t the type of movement notes by Christensen.
“Many are seeking to improve their situations in their current careers,” Grady said.
Christensen also noted there are great opportunities to gain new knowledge and skills (i.e. online venues) than in previous years. Learning is “lifelong.”
For those who are seeking new jobs, Grady encourages one to carefully research the abundant information available to see, for example, what people entering a new field make as a new employee – and to not merely assume existing skills will transfer to a new career area.
Speaking of skills, Christensen indicated the lack of skills is an ongoing issue for younger workers.
“Many do not come to work every day as scheduled, are absent too often, do not get along with the supervisor, are late constantly, and are busying playing with their ‘gadgets’ instead of doing their job assignments,” she said. “I hear this complaint daily from companies.”