rss icon

Friday, 03 April 2015 13:16

New federal jobs numbers hint at labor supply imbalance, experts say

Written by 
Rate this item
(2 votes)
“Growing a Skilled Workforce” executive panel discussion “Growing a Skilled Workforce” executive panel discussion PHOTO: NICK MANES

Federal employment numbers released today show that businesses added fewer jobs than expected last month, providing further evidence to what some say is a widening gulf between the labor supply and employer needs.

The U.S. economy added only 126,000 jobs in the month of March, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), far short of the 245,000 jobs forecasted. Unemployment remained at 5.5 percent nationwide, and hourly wages were up 0.3 percent.

The employment situation nationally isn’t far off from what Michigan is seeing, according to employers and economists who see the so-called “skills gap” as a hindrance to higher growth.

“Our workforce doesn’t match the jobs needs out there,” said Brian Long, an economist and director of supply chain management at Grand Valley State University. “The problem is that requirements for the labor force have shifted. You’ve got high school graduates that don’t have any skills right now. That’s our gap.”

Indeed, construction and manufacturing — two of the industries in West Michigan most affected by the skills gap — “showed little change this month” in the national BLS report.

Meanwhile, Michigan’s unemployment rate, which currently sits at 5.8 percent and is trending lower, remains slightly worse than the national level. However, Kent County is significantly better, with unemployment of just 3.9 percent, according to the Michigan Department of Technology Management and Budget.

Despite a pretty major miss on the national jobs number, The Upshot — the policy blog for The New York Times — notes the current conditions are not as bad as some people have positioned them.

“Where it all settles is still murky,” wrote senior economics correspondent Neil Irwin. “The good news is that if you look at the longer time horizon, the job market still looks quite strong. Job gains have averaged 261,000 a month over the last six months.”

Labor concerns continue to be at the forefront for businesses in Michigan. On Thursday, Business Leaders for Michigan hosted an executive panel discussion in Grand Rapids on “Growing a Skilled Workforce,” during which leaders from Meijer Inc., Autocam Medical Devices LLC and Wolverine World Wide Inc. spoke to the challenges of finding the right people to fill the open jobs.

Whether it’s traditional manufacturing, retail or footwear design, executives say the struggle of finding the right people has continued. They attribute the challenge to a tightening labor market as well as to a mismatch of education to employer needs.

In West Michigan, the employer community has historically been rather proactive in collaborating with higher education to address training challenges. Organizations such as the Manufacturers Council — facilitated through economic development group The Right Place Inc. — and Talent 2025 have worked to match the educational infrastructure to the needs of employers.

Leaders at the state level say getting businesses engaged in the training process is crucial to filling the gaps in the long term.

“It really is about employer involvement. I can’t stress that enough,” Stephanie Comai, director of the newly-formed Michigan Talent Investment Agency, said at the Business Leaders for Michigan event. “We need employers to tell us what kinds of competencies and skills they need. We need to make sure our dollars are being used most effectively and it’s really getting that input from the employment community to identify where that investment will make the most difference.”

Read 5927 times Last modified on Sunday, 12 April 2015 20:54

Breaking News

September 2018
S M T W T F S
26 27 28 29 30 31 1
2 3 4 5 6 7 8
9 10 11 12 13 14 15
16 17 18 19 20 21 22
23 24 25 26 27 28 29
30 1 2 3 4 5 6

Follow MiBiz