In Omaha, Nebraska, Express Employment Professionals franchise owner Bernie Inbody says recruiting new workers is a “constant grind” for local companies that has become even harder in recent months. He’s not alone. With companies growing and unemployment low, it is becoming more difficult for businesses to staff up, leaving some resorting to automation, relocation and even offshoring-not to save money but to make up for the lack of workers.
Janis Petrini, an Express franchise owner in Grand Rapids, Michigan, marvels at how the labor market has become tighter.
“Our market keeps getting harder and harder,” she said. “Last year at this time, we didn’t really think the employment market could get any tighter in our area, and somehow it did.”
As a result, Petrini said, companies are requiring overtime and investing more in automation “simply because they know they can’t find the labor.”
According to Ted Maksimowski, an Express franchise owner of three operations in Ontario (Hamilton, Burlington and Brantford), recruiting new workers is a constant challenge for local companies. “It is a great time to be looking for a job, especially for candidates that have skills and experience.”
Daniel Purdy, an Express franchise owner in Abbotsford, British Columbia, reports that several local companies have automated their facilities to eliminate more repetitive jobs. Some companies are even relocating.
“We are seeing more companies relocating east of Vancouver,” said Purdy. “With newer business condos, quicker access to major transportation routes and hubs, and larger tracts of land, they draw a growing population of both skilled and unskilled workers who can no longer afford to live in the city.”
Amy Clegg, a franchise owner in Scranton, Pennsylvania, says the business growth in her area has put a strain on the labor market. “Companies are attracted to the Scranton area because one third of our country can be reached within one day’s drive.” Without enough workers in the area, businesses are doing whatever they can to fill the gap.
“Many small manufacturers cannot afford automation, but medium and larger facilities are taking advantage of low interest rates and generous lenders to implement automation,” Clegg added. “Many companies are requiring their current workforce to work overtime to meet the demands of production. Large firms offer relocation assistance, including one local firm that hired a manger from Germany.”
Fifty percent say it is “somewhat difficult” to recruit and fill positions, while 33% say it is “very difficult.” Only 14% say “somewhat easy,” and 2 percent say “very easy.”
More respondents said “very” or “somewhat difficult” than in any of the previous four quarters.
What are businesses to do in this environment? Inbody recommends providing more flexibility in shifts and time off so those with difficult schedules are more likely to apply for jobs. He also suggests “investing in management training in hopes of reducing turnover.”
“The tight labor market poses challenges for all sorts of companies, but it’s a sign of the continued health of the economy,” said Bill Stoller, CEO of Express. “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 so we can get those people into the workforce, rather than forcing companies to resort to automation or offshoring.”
The survey of 445 businesses, which are current and former clients of Express Employment Professionals, was conducted in December 2018 to gauge respondents’ expectations for 2019.