While January is normally a big month for job seekers, the pandemic has brought about an unprecedented shift in the hiring landscape.
Labor shortages in many industries in the state and Livingston County are expected to continue this year.
The county’s low unemployment rate can be misleading. Many county residents commute out of the county for higher paying jobs. Meanwhile, some county employers face a shortage of workers who often cannot afford the county’s high cost of living.
Brighton-based recruitment agency WSC Staffing, which recently changed its name from Action Associates, continues to struggle to find enough candidates for the employers it helps recruit.
“In February 2020, when there was already a shortage, we were talking to between 200 and 250 applicants a day for a variety of jobs,” said agency vice president Suzy Murphy.
Nearly two years later, it has only rebounded to around 75 to 80 job applicants per day, after falling to 30 per day during the 2020 pandemic shutdowns, Murphy said.
“There will always be shortages. We still have so many jobs open in the county, not just in manufacturing, but also in education, warehousing.”
She said most job applicants live outside the county.
She said a few factors are at play, including people quitting their jobs due to concerns about COVID-19, vaccination mandates, low wages and unsatisfactory work environments.
She said younger workers are changing jobs the most and some older workers are retiring early.
“We see it in the under 30s. There’s a cultural shift, and young workers are saying, I can participate more in the gig economy and work together, not 9 to 5. They’re going to Lyft and Uber of cyber-currency mining. There are so many dot-com startups that these people are getting into.
She said some workers are also willing to wait to find remote employment.
“Some companies we work with have almost caught up and others are still in dire need of employees.”
She said there is a great need for healthcare workers, nurses, carers, manufacturing workers, warehouse staff, assemblers, machine operators, substitute teachers and auxiliaries, bus drivers and truck drivers. »
Flooded job boards
The Workforce Intelligence Network counted 16,848 job postings in the county last year. In December, 4,079 jobs were posted.
The companies with the most job openings were Trinity Health, with 618 job openings, Hanover Insurance, with 280 job openings, and Meijer with 207 job openings, according to data from the Workforce Intelligence Network.
Job postings by region are listed by the Michigan Bureau of Labor Market Information and Strategic Initiatives.
Advertised job openings reached 24,422 last month in the state’s prosperity Region 9, which includes Hillsdale, Jackson, Lenawee, Livingston, Monroe and Washtenaw counties, according to the bureau. This is a significant increase from pre-pandemic rates. As of December 2019, there were 14,674 job openings in the region.
Brighton and Howell are among the top 10 job posting areas in Prosperity Region 9.
As of last month, 1,316 jobs were advertised in Brighton and 1,119 in Howell.
At least 100 restaurant jobs are open in the Brighton area alone, and there are likely to be many more openings than that.
Fifteen restaurants in the Brighton area had more than 100 jobs open leading up to a Friday job fair for restaurant workers organized by the Brighton Area Chamber of Commerce.
RELATED: Brighton Chamber of Commerce hosts job fair for restaurant workers
The idea for the job fair came about during discussions among chamber members about successful restaurants caught during the COVID-19 pandemic, said Pam McConeghy, president and CEO of the chamber.
“You want them to succeed,” McConeghy told the Livingston Daily last week. “If they don’t succeed, part of our economy collapses… You don’t want that.”
Low unemployment, but low wages
Livingston County has the lowest unemployment rate in the state. In November 2021, it was 2.5%.
Prior to the pandemic, the county had an average unemployment rate of 3.3% in 2019. Unemployment in the county peaked at 21% in April 2020.
In April last year, economists at the University of Michigan released a report on the county’s economic outlook through 2023.
While some economic indicators pointed to a strong comeback for the county in terms of job growth and falling unemployment, other indicators pointed to them, including low wages, according to the study released by UM Research Seminar in Quantitative Economics.
While Livingston County has the highest average median household income in the state at $86,512, the average wage for salaried jobs in the county was significantly lower than the state average.
However, most jobs in the county pay less than the state as a whole.
In 2019, the average salary in the county was $45,812, according to the UM study. The state average was $54,972.
In 2020, jobs in private education, health, and social services accounted for 13.2% of the county’s total employment. In the county, the average salary was $38,873, well below the state average of $50,845.
Murphy said local employers have increased wages and created more benefits and incentives to attract and retain workers, including mental health and wellness programs.
“Companies have raised wages and waited to see what happens. Some have done two or three raises, and I think they’re adding more hiring and retention bonuses,” she said. “Companies are also focusing on other perks, wellness incentives, extra days off.”
She said some businesses have full closing days due to shortages to avoid placing the entire burden on a few employees.
Jobs lost and gained
Ann Arbor SPARK collected data on job losses and gains in Livingston and Washtenaw counties.
Since 2019, Livingston County has lost a total of 4,572 jobs, representing 1.2% of the jobs lost in the state, according to a recent report.
“It’s no surprise that the hardest hit industries and occupations in the Ann Arbor area are restaurant-related,” the report said. “Stay-at-home orders, social distancing requirements and other pandemic-related regulations have contributed to the loss of jobs in restaurants and other food-service establishments across the region, and recent supply shortages food have not improved the situation.”
The county’s full-service restaurants lost the most jobs, according to the Ann Arbor SPARK report. Between 2019 and 2021, full-service restaurants lost 542 jobs. The county’s limited-service restaurants lost 230 jobs.
Livingston County’s top 10 occupations with the most job losses from 2019 to 2021 are:
- Fast food and county workers; 328
- retail sellers; 267
- Waiters and waitresses; 261
- nursing aides and home health aides; 145
- restaurant cooks; 127
- Early Childhood Workers; 104
- Customer Service Representatives; 96
- Secretaries and administrative assistants (except legal, medical and executive); 93
- Assemblers of engines and other machines; 90
The industry that created the most jobs between 2019 and 2021 was automotive metal stamping, which added 579 jobs. B2B e-marketplaces gained 111 jobs.
Livingston County’s top 10 occupations with the most jobs gained from 2019 to 2021 are:
- Storers and order fillers; 69
- cashiers; 35
- Project management specialists and business operations specialists; 29
- roofers; 26
- light truck drivers; 21
- Insurance underwriters; 19
- Industrial machinery mechanics; 19
- Chemical equipment operators and bidders; 18
- commercial insurance agents; 18
- post-secondary teachers; 17
Contact Livingston Daily reporter Jennifer Timar at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @jennifer_timar.