According to a recent release by Labor Market Information specialist Randy Weaver, Humboldt County’s unemployment rate in September was 4.6%. This is the second time this year that unemployment dipped below 5%, the level most economists call full employment.
Humboldt Unemployment down to 4.6%
As Gregg Foster, Executive Director of RREDC (the Redwood Region Economic Development Commission) pointed out in a follow-up email, there are two things going on here: some job growth, along with a shrinking workforce. Since 2010, Humboldt has seen minimal to moderate job growth (either 30 jobs, if you count self-employed people or 720 jobs, if you only count wage earners). At the same time, and much bigger, Humboldt’s labor force has declined by nearly 3500 workers.
Experts have been forecasting a labor shortage for years, due to the retirement of baby boomers and other factors. While the Great Recession extended the timeline, that shortage is here now. Humboldt may have unique factors, but on this topic we are entirely representative of the national situation. As one indicator that we’re in good company, the U.S. unemployment rate for September was 4.8%.
Other things being equal, it’s a good thing that unemployment is low, both regionally and nationally. (Gregg recalls a time a couple of decades ago when economic development folks in Humboldt just hoped to get unemployment under double digits.) However, it clearly makes hiring more challenging than it was a few years ago.
Hiring in a Tough Market
What options do employers have to find the talent they need? Here are a few:
- Make sure you are providing the best workplace you can. Employees, especially younger ones, want to be part of something bigger than themselves. Communicate how your organization, and their job or potential job, contribute to society.
- Examine the compensation package. Meaning doesn’t pay the ($600 for a studio) rent. Or looming student loans for a recent college graduate. To be competitive for entry-level manual labor, you probably need to be at $14 or more in the local market. For a recent college graduate, in this market, you should be thinking at least mid/high teens per hour.
- Try to provide some semblance of a benefit package. You might explore employee leasing through Sequoia Personnel as a way to accomplish providing a solid benefits package at a cost you can afford.
- Make sure supervisors are actually good with people. This doesn’t mean soft, but it does mean human, with reasonable communications skills and innate fairness. It’s been said for years that people leave bosses rather than jobs, and that’s truer of younger workers now. Sequoia’s HR consultants can help. In addition, the Job Market will provide a first-line supervisor training early in 2017 to help people new to the role get better faster.
- Think of employees as another customer. Most employers can’t put a help wanted sign in the window and expect a line of applicants outside the door. Employers need to do the same things you do for customers: networking, selling what you have to offer, and working on retaining that employee/customer.
- Examine your requirements…and your biases. When looking at your job postings, think critically. Does that job really require a degree and 5 years of directly related experience? Might an experienced person with a two year degree be an equally good choice? Or a veteran with great transferable skills? Or someone with a disability? Or someone returning to society from a stint in prison? Or someone over 60? Or a recent college grad with a promising internship? The more you answer questions like these honestly with a “yes,” the larger your pool of potential employees becomes.
- Get creative with newer technologies. Recently, both local bakery Natural Decadence and the North Coast Co-op have used inventive social media campaigns to show that they are great places to work. Think about whether something like this would deploy well for you.
- Utilize the free resources available to you…the Job Market, the Small Business Development Center, or the Northern California Association of Nonprofits. Inquire about what they can do for your organization.
- Use us to help you hire. Think of Sequoia Personnel like you think of a fishing guide…we are professionals in knowing where and how to look for good people. It’s our core competence. Our staying in business depends on finding you people that you want enough to pay us for them. Just call 707-445-9641 to get started.