Inside the Job Market

Too many jobs and not enough workers

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It's finally summer! That means soaring temperatures, vacations, beaches, swimming pools outdoor barbecues — and applying for jobs.

The latest U.S. jobs report has gotten many analysts and policymakers once again asking whether the nation is at full employment.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported last month that the U.S. unemployment rate fell to 3.6 percent, which is the lowest level since December 2000. For the first time in recorded history, the number of job openings — 6.7 million — is higher than the number of people looking — 6.3 million — for a job. In Berkshire County the unemployment rate is 3.6 percent, with 65,415 in the labor force and 2,383 unemployed, according to May data, the most recent information available.

To the average person on Main Street, the idea of full employment usually implies everyone in the country is working. However, even in a fully employed, robust economy there will always be people who have given up looking for work, who are between jobs or whose skills are not needed.

Essentially, the idea of full employment is that so few workers are available that companies need to begin raising wages to attract help. Employers need to rethink their approach to hiring.

As part of our Berkshire County recruiting efforts, the Berkshire Workforce Board convened with 120 companies to identify their hiring and recruitment needs and strategies. The results found that "a low number of applicants" was the biggest problem when it comes to filling open jobs. Findings showed that in 2018, 68 percent of human resource professionals have experienced difficulty recruiting candidates for full-time positions. Three years ago, 50 percent of HR officials were in this predicament.

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics supports these findings as the unemployment rate has decreased, the number of job openings has increased, creating huge talent shortages for companies across many business sectors.

Here are the 10 most-difficult-to-fill positions right now, according to the BLS.

- High-skilled medical workers, such as nurses, doctors and specialists;

- Scientists and mathematicians;

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- Skilled trades, such as electricians, carpenters, machinists, mechanics, welders and plumbers;

- Engineering and architects;

- Information technology, computer specialists;

- Executives;

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- High-skills technicians, such as health, telecommunications and environmental techs;

- Transportation, such as drivers;

- Construction and extraction workers;

- And community and social service workers.

If you are seeking to fill job vacancies, here are some tips that might help:

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- Don't delay. Employers are fighting for the best candidates, and hot prospects might have offers within 48 hours. If you want them, make time for the interviews and let them know they are a priority.

- Find workers in unexpected places. Look into untapped markets, like veterans, community organizations and local colleges.

- Use social media effectively and offer bonuses to current employees who refer a successful candidate.

- Offer a realistic salary range. Candidates and companies should do research to find the right competitive cost.

- Look carefully at the hiring qualifications. Someone may have relevant experience instead of a master's degree.

- Be clear about what sets your company apart. Every company claims to have a pleasant work environment, attractive benefits and a great team, but what

really makes your organization a place people want to work. Candidates want the right fit to make a job change worthwhile.

A tight labor market has forced employers to offer training, reach out to new populations of workers and accept applications from workers they might not have before considered. Ultimately, this is expanding and up-skilling the labor pool as a result. Some companies are providing on-site education and accommodations like flexible schedules, too. The Berkshire Workforce Board, MassHire Berkshire Career Center and our partners can help both employers and job seekers with their workforce needs — MassHireBerkshire.com.

Heather Boulger is the executive director of MassHire Berkshire Workforce Board.


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