Jobs reports encouraging for West Michigan
West Michigan has had some positive employment news this month.
First, Manpower released an employment outlook survey that ranked the Grand Rapids MSA as the third best in the nation and indicated that hiring is likely in the region.
Also this month, the U.S. Department of Labor released its employment summary for May, which included some positive news for the region, according to Mark Lancaster, CEO of the EmploymentGroup.
Though the May employment report showed a slight uptick in unemployment, to 7.6 percent, one of the industries with the strongest employment growth was temporary help services, which saw an increase of 26,000 jobs.
Lancaster said that the temporary help industry is often an indicator of a recovering or growing economy.
“The Federal Reserve has always used the temporary help industry as a leading indicator,” Lancaster said.
Lancaster said that West Michigan is actually doing even better than the nation in the temporary employment services sector.
“Certainly the uptick in usage of temporaries has been true for us,” he said. “Over the last 45 days we’ve probably seen a 10 percent increase, which frankly in that short amount of time is pretty significant.”
Lancaster pointed first to the auto industry as the reason for the increase.
“Auto — certainly in Michigan and the country — is a leader of job creation and growth. It always has been (and) probably will be for some time.”
He also noted that the health care, furniture manufacturing, home building and consumer electronics industries are contributing to the uptick in West Michigan.
Lancaster said that since 2010 his agency has seen an average of 1,000 employees hired from temporary positions into client firms, and he expects this year will be no different.
“We are talking with our customers every day and week, and in June specifically we talked to them about the balance of the year and we see continued strength through the end of the year,” he said.
“July is always a slowdown in Michigan for a variety of reasons. The Fourth of July holiday typically has been a time for auto companies to do changeovers of models and that general summer vacation, but it looks strong through the end of the year.
“I am sure we will be over 4,000 (hires) in the last four years at the end of this year.”
He added that EmploymentGroup only operates in four markets with 12 offices in West Michigan, making 1,000 hires a year significant.
Challenges ahead include unknowns and confusion around the Affordable Care Act as well as difficulty finding the labor needed for the jobs available.
“There is some reticence in the market because of the Affordable Care Act and just because all the regulations and rules aren’t in place,” Lancaster said. “It’s a big unknown. I think people are reticent to add people, which frankly could mean that in the meantime they might add temporary workers.”
But temporary workers also could fall under the Affordable Care Act rules.
“It is a challenge to find good quality workers, and that is why customers come to us to help assist them with that,” he said.
“Companies are making a real effort to start their own training programs and initiate apprenticeships and internships to fill that gap of skilled workers.”
He pointed to Autocam as an example of a company that is traveling that path.
“They have a very robust apprenticeship and training facility right on their campus that they staff with instructors from Grand Rapids Community College,” he said.
“I think people are taking it upon themselves to initiate training and scholarships to try and build that skilled worker base, because so many of the skilled workers are getting toward retirement age and creating a huge gap.”
EmploymentGroup also is focusing on training and scholarship opportunities for those going into in demand fields.
“This year is our 55thanniversary and we have put together a program called ‘Five and Five’ that each year over the next five years we’ll be doing five internships and selecting five scholarship winners.”