Labor shortage persists as unemployment rate in Monroe rises

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Two years after the COVID-19 pandemic began creating ripple effects on the economy, data shows the United States is on track to recover the 22 million jobs lost at the start of the crisis of public health.

But while analysts expect the country to hit that target by July, where those jobs appear varies significantly from where it was before massive unemployment spikes and wage losses emerged. at the beginning of 2020.

While some states have largely recovered and are expected to make gains, other states and communities — like Michigan as a whole and Monroe County — have fewer payroll positions as labor demand remains on the rise.

The contradictory trends highlight a quirk felt in some regions: data shows declining jobs and rising unemployment, but companies are clamoring to attract workers. And these labor shortages continue to have ripple effects.

Barry Kinsey, director of workforce development at Monroe County Community College, said local businesses are actively seeking to fill positions.

“We get calls daily from employers looking for employees,” Kinsey said. “They often ask to speak with our students and post their opportunities on our online job site. Employment sectors are all encompassing; part-time, full-time, skilled and unskilled.

Local businesses are still short of manpower

For the better part of a year and a half, signs reading “Help Wanted” and “Now Hiring” dotted businesses in Monroe County.

Companies such as restaurants, retailers and manufacturers have announced wages well above flexible minimum hours and benefits. And as they scramble to find workers, shorter hours and fewer services have resulted for some of them.

Circumstances are no doubt peculiar given Monroe’s recent unemployment report: Data from the Department of Technology, Management, and State Budget puts the local unemployment rate at 6.3% in February, versus 4.8% in January.

The jump earned Monroe the designation of having the largest month-over-month increase in the unemployment rate among Michigan’s major labor markets.

Kinsey said it’s difficult to determine why there remains such high demand for workers.

“You would think that with rising inflation, the workforce would look to get a new job or an additional job to meet the added cost of living, but we’re not experiencing that,” he said. he added.

Kinsey notes that many businesses have had to adopt modified schedules in light of ongoing shortages. The situation also has an impact on workers in understaffed companies.

“It’s a stressor for those working in short-staffed organizations,” Kinsey said. “Employees are being asked to do more and work extended hours.”

Tim Lake, president and CEO of the Monroe County Business Development Corp., said local manufacturer and warehouse operations continue to see the fallout from labor shortages.

These companies seek to fill vacancies for positions considered skilled and unskilled.

The reason these jobs go so long without being filled varies depending on their duties and the training needed, Lake added.

“As for unskilled labor, I think maybe they have adjusted their lifestyle and don’t need a steady job,” he said. “When it comes to skilled workers, there are more workers retiring than those seeking training for skilled positions. »

Lake echoed Kinsey’s sentiments, saying companies have largely adapted to shortages while continuing to post open job postings.

“For the most part, businesses have adapted to the lack of labor and supply chain issues,” Lake added. “As the Monroe County manufacturing community is heavily involved in the auto parts business, many have experienced supply chain downturns and chip shortages, which has mitigated the impact of the lack of employees.”

Explore data trends

In February, the number of jobs recovered hovered around 20.4 million nationwide, according to an analysis by USA Today. The recovery is largely fueled by job creation in the southern and western regions.

It’s a different story in the Northeast and Midwest, however.

Monroe and Michigan as a whole are no exception.

In February, DTMB data showed that about 4.56 million salaried jobs existed in Michigan.

That’s down from the roughly 4.7 million recorded in March 2020, as shutdowns, regulations and changing consumer trends emerged in light of the virus.

Wage employment and unemployment rates have largely declined and recovered, although the largest spikes were recorded at the start of the pandemic.

Last month, Monroe County’s labor market consisted of about 73,800 people, a slight increase from January’s 72,700 count.

This increase of 1,100 people was entirely due to Monroe residents receiving economic assistance from the state unemployment benefits program.

In total, about 4,600 Monroe County residents were unemployed last month. In January, that number was 3,500 per month.

About 62,900 people were considered employed in February. It was stagnant compared to the previous month.

Lake said the increase is likely attributable to those who reside in Monroe County but travel to adjacent metropolitan areas for work. Lake said about 50% of local residents are employed by businesses outside the county.

This conforms to DTMB declarations. In a press release, the agency said unemployment spikes in Monroe County were largely driven by seasonal layoffs related to the auto industry, which has long been entrenched in southeast Michigan. .

“As auto manufacturing plants have temporary slowdowns and layoffs, this will impact Monroe County unemployment,” Lake said. “We don’t notice it directly in the county because our smaller employers are less likely to lay off and are just working despite the slowdown in orders. I would say most of that number of unemployed came from employers not located in Monroe County.

Kinsey agreed with Lake and state officials.

“(The Monroe Market) is experiencing seasonal layoffs, coupled with automotive layoffs associated with supply chain issues,” he said.

Local experts remain optimistic about the future of the local economy.

Lake said he believes there will be moderate job growth in the county going forward. This growth will happen slowly over time, he added.

“We’re adding jobs to the county, but at the same time automation is taking jobs away,” Lake said. “The net effect is slow and steady job growth.”

Kinsey also said Monroe’s outlook should trend upward.

“Communities in Monroe County are working with the BDC of Monroe County to position themselves as the location of choice for logistics operations as completion of the Gordie Howe International Bridge is completed,” Kinsey added.

Lake said there are lots of things employers can do to attract and retain employees, including flexible work hours, increased benefits and even childcare options.

“We advocate for employers to develop pipelines for employees to grow within a company,” Lake added. “Support this with paid training and consider covering apprenticeships where it makes business sense.”

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