Low unemployment a double edged sword for Joplin employers

More available jobs than available workers
Low unemployment a double edged sword for Joplin employers
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When the unemployment rate is low that’s a good sign the economy is strong. But for some businesses in Joplin, it’s causing a shortage of skilled workers.

“We’re running out of people to work.” Bubba Evansco with the Workforce Innovation Board and the Missouri Career Center sums it up. Since the 2011 tornado, the metro area has seen significant growth according to stats from the WIB, Joplin’s population is up just over 4,000 since 2013, and is expected to grow another 4,000 in the next five years.

That’s drawn in a number of industries with more than 12,000 jobs in manufacturing nearly double the national average. But, that population growth, isn’t keeping up with labor demands. Evansco says “When you have this low of an unemployment…when I first took this job we were around 8% so we had a huge pool of people to draw from, now it’s under 3%, getting close to 2% even locally and that means that pool is so so small to draw from.”

And it goes beyond general labor, many employers are looking for “skilled” workers. Evansco says “They want to be able to get a supervisor or someone they can train immediately to put on a machine.” Agencies like Express Personnel say they are busy with job seekers, but are running into the same recruitment issues. Kayla Santana, with Express Personnel says “(It) probably hit us about a year and half ago or so, we noticed that there’s not a whole lot of skilled folks that are available at this time that are looking for jobs, if they have a skill, they’re already working.”

Santana tells us her best recruitment pool though, is those just moving to the city. Santana says “What’s very beneficial for us is the fact that people come in, they move here from other areas, and so they see, we recruit them in that way.”

We spoke with Audie Dennis, the Vice President and General Manager of Boyd metals in Joplin, and he says in the last two years it’s become more difficult for them to recruit skilled workers, echoing what Santana said about how many employees that are skilled, are already well employed.

Evansco says there’s also the perception of “factory” work that could be playing a role. “I think there’s still a lot of negative connotations about it being a dirty, grimey, dangerous job, they are so safety compliant they are so clean and automated now.”

Evansco says one way they’re trying to combat the skilled labor shortage is by working with companies to develop training programs for people that come into the career center. Evansco tells us the career center is still seeing a strong influx of job seekers, but he says they need more companies to work with them to expand the resources and talent pool.