2018-01-28 / Insight

Local job market stays tight, evolves

Expert: Employees, employers must adapt
BY ANDREW DIETDERICH
810-452-2609 • adietderich@mihomepaper.com

LAPEER COUNTY — While employment in Lapeer County is up since the Great Recession, changes in the local economy have caused the number of higher-paying jobs to drop and essentially be replaced with lower-paying ones.

That’s according to experts who analyzed key employment metrics for The County Press.

Factors considered included current job openings, year-over-year changes from 2015 to 2016, and how the area has generally fared when it comes to jobs since the recession.

“Since the end of the Great Recession in 2009, many of Lapeer County’s major industries have experienced large changes in their employment,” said Dylan Schafer, economic analyst, bureau of labor market information and strategic initiatives, Michigan Dept. of Technology, Management and Budget.

The total number of jobs increased 23 percent between 2009 and 2016 (most recent figures available), rising from 13,826 to 17,014.

One industry has seen the most growth in that time span, Schafer said.

“The manufacturing industry has experienced the greatest growth in employment, gaining nearly 1,400 jobs since the lows seen in 2009,” he said.

The number of manufacturing jobs increased from 3,626 to 5,008, data indicates. Schafer said the manufacturing industry has surpassed pre-recessionary levels of employment, noting that in 2007 employment was just over 4,800.

The next closest industry in terms of job growth was in accommodation/ food service, where the number of jobs increased from 1,637 to 2,410.

By definition, accommodation/ food service jobs are those where workers provide customers with lodging (hotels) and/or preparing meals, snacks, and beverages (typically cafes or restau- rants).

Another industry that saw relatively significant gains during the 2009-2016 time period was the retail trade.

The number of retails jobs increased from 2,703 to 2,994 during the timeframe.

Retail trade jobs are defined as those that at businesses engaged in selling something, from electronics and appliances to auto dealers and gas stations.

“An increase in this industry could be due to an increase in the number of businesses opening in the area,” Schafer said. “The number of retail trade establishments has increased by 3.1 percent since 2015, and they need employees for these new establishments.”

But focusing on more recent figures provides a more accurate picture of today’s job market.

Data shows accommodation/ food services and retail are leading the way when it comes to recent job growth in Lapeer County while manufacturing and health care/social assistance have declined.

The department reports that from 2015 to 2016 (most recent numbers available), the accommodation/food service industry grew from 2,306 to 2,410, or about 4.5 percent.

Concurrently, the number of retail jobs increased from 2,899 to 2,994, or about 3.3 percent.

On the other side of the spectrum, the number of manufacturing jobs drops from 5,140 in 2015 to 5,008 in 2016, a drop of about 2.6 percent. Health care/social assistance dropped from 1,484 to 1,427, or about 3.8 percent.

Overall, the total number of jobs increased from 16,861 to 17,014, or about 1 percent.

According to data from Local Area Unemployment Statistics, the unemployment rate fell to 4.1 percent in November 2017 for Lapeer County, representing a slight decrease since the prior month when the unemployment rate stood at 4.5 percent.

In November 2016, the unemployment rate was a reported 5.3 percent, while in October 2016, it was 5.9 percent.

Pure Michigan Talent Connect indicates there are opportunities for job seekers.

The website is an online marketplace connecting Michigan’s job seekers and employers, and serves as a central hub linking all public and private stakeholders who support Michigan’s workforce. Pure Michigan Talent Connect serves as the state’s labor exchange system.

Pure Michigan Talent Connect showed 639 jobs within 25 miles of Lapeer at the beginning of September. On Thursday, the website had 919 for the same region.

Jessica Billiau, director of communications, GST Michigan Works!, a Flint-based agency whose service area includes Lapeer County, said employers and employees need to embrace current market conditions.

“For individuals that are serious about working, there is certainly opportunity out there,” she said.

“Employers are in a difficult situation competing for talent right now.”

Finding quality workers remains a priority.

“Even in this environment, we still hear a lot of feedback from employers that they would like to see more candidates willing to come in on time (consistently) ready to work, willing to learn and be trained. (i.e. improved soft skills),” she said.

Employers also are adapting to the market, she said.

“It’s causing employers to look at their hiring practices and work environments and ask themselves how they might get the edge on attracting skilled talent...what makes them different than the place up the street,” Billiau said. “Retention is a concern voiced by many employers today as well...so it’s not just about attracting talent, it’s about how they plan to keep them.”

She said it’s important to note GST Michigan Works! works closely with local employers to understand current needs, and continuously works with career seekers to communicate those needs and help them prepare to be successful in the workplace.

“Businesses have unique needs, and so do career seekers, so we’re not a ‘one-sizefits all’ kind of place,” Billiau said. “Our staff is focused on listening and making the right connections for the business and the career seeker customer.”

She suggests job hunters consider talking to a GST Michigan Works! Career Coach.

Further, the organization now has a “GPS Workshop” weekly at the Michigan Works! Service Center in Lapeer. The event helps job hunters with career exploration, creating a resume, online job applications, and more. More details can be found at gstmiworks.org/events/online-job-searchworkshop 3-2018-02-01/

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