Finding workers expected to be even more difficult in 2019
Q: Why was it so difficult for businesses to find employees last year?
A: In 2018, the average unemployment rate was 3.9 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. While low unemployment numbers are great for job seekers, businesses struggled to balance expanding demand with a shortage of workers. Those who were qualified for positions were already employed, and those who had trouble finding work often lacked the skills needed for available jobs.
Q: If the market was already tough last year, why are business owners now saying it's even harder to find talent?
A: There has been some chatter of a possible recession in 2020, but business owners don't see a slowdown any time in the next six months. With the boom and continuing low unemployment, 83 percent of companies say it's difficult to recruit and hire, according to a recent Express Employment Professionals survey. One business owner said this time last year, they didn't think their employment market could get any tighter. But somehow, it did.
Q: How are businesses compensating for the lack of candidates?
A: Some companies are resorting to automation, relocation and even offshoring to keep up with the market. Others are implementing mandatory overtime. Without enough workers, companies are doing whatever they can to fill the gap and get the labor required.
Q: What is a solution to this labor shortage?
A: The jobs are out there. And more than ever, businesses are ready to accommodate the individual needs of job seekers. There are workers still on the sidelines, though, who don't have the needed skills. School, business and government leaders should focus on expanded job training opportunities in careers with a large percentage of workers retiring in the near future. The impact of retiring baby boomers is most heavily felt in the blue collar sector, where not enough young people are encouraged to enter skilled trades. The jobs, however, can offer lucrative careers through certifications completions that result in minimal or no student loan debt. It's time to invest in worthwhile apprentice and mentorship programs to stop forcing companies to take their business elsewhere to find the talent they need or implementing automation. Just think of how much money and time companies could save by proactively training candidates instead of scrambling to meet demand every time the economy booms.
PAULA BURKES, BUSINESS WRITER
Published The Oklahoman, January 11, 2019