Local Data Reveals Many Mismatches Within Region’s Labor Market

This article originally appeared in the April 7, 2023 issue of the Duluth News Tribune. You can view it here.

A review of recent trends in northforce.org data reaffirms the many mismatches that currently define our regional labor market, including ongoing workforce shortages across sectors.

For a start, the pool of candidates actively seeking work is predominantly made up of highly skilled individuals: Just under a third (27%) of new northforce.org candidates have 15 or more years of experience. Compare that to job openings, which are dominated by entry-level positions (53%) and roles that require two to five years of experience (41%).

It’s also worth comparing employment types: 77% of job listings are full-time, and the vast majority are on-site. We don’t ask candidates what type of positions they’re seeking, but we know that in general, part-time and flex work is on the rise.

Sectors with severe labor shortages include education and child care, health care, manufacturing, and construction. Sales and retail, hospitality and tourism, and the licensed skilled trades are also hurting for applicants and apprentices.

While there are open positions across all sectors, some fields are more competitive than others. Business and management listings typically have multiple interested candidates per job opening. Same goes for marketing/communications and science-related fields.

Unsurprisingly, industries with the biggest discrepancies between average pay and candidate wage expectations largely overlap with the industries struggling to hire. Top of the list are manufacturing and health care, which respectively have $53,000 and $35,000 gaps between average wages posted by employers compared to the average salary candidates are seeking. Aviation is another standout with a $20,000 gap in this respect.

In general, wages are rising. Sectors with the largest upward trend in wages are housing construction and maintenance and sales/retail. Manufacturing and licensed skilled trades also saw upticks in wages between January 2022 and January 2023.

During that same timeframe, we recorded no significant change in wages for business and management roles. Ditto for financial services and jobs related to computers and technology. This tallies with the labor supply-demand dynamics we’re seeing in each of those fields. The exceptions are health care and hospitality (despite high demand for candidates, wages remain relatively static) and marketing/communications roles, which continue to offer higher pay even as they attract high levels of interest from candidates.

It’s undeniable that we’re seeing workforce shortages due to an aging baby boomer population, stricter immigration, emerging industries, and other factors. But those broadscale trends only tell part of the story. Dig deeper, and within every industry you see high competition for some roles (many of which never get posted) right alongside jobs that perpetually go unfilled or have high turnover.

As an employer struggling to fill open positions right now, what should you do? Waiting for macro trends to shift isn’t a feasible strategy. Instead, take a look at your tough-to-fill roles. Is there a way you can get creative and reinvent those job descriptions to make them more attractive to candidates?

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