Economic Development News

Chamber commissions Labor Study
Published: Wednesday, June 15, 2016
By: Missy Bonnot, Director, Economic Development

Because of the current situation of challenges in the workforce, much of the conversation at the recent Chamber Board of Directors Retreat revolved around labor.  Jefferson City, like many other communities is experiencing a very low unemployment rate.  The latest figures show Cole County’s unemployment rate is 3.3% compared to Missouri at 4.2% and the US at 4.7%.  We are hearing from our businesses sectors that the availability of workforce keeps shrinking, leaving it more and more difficult to fill open positions.

At the Board Retreat we had an expert panel that included:

Bob Volmert, Plant Manager, Alpla   (now with Continental Commercial Products)

Christine Ellinger, Senior Vice-President, Human Resources Director, Central Bancompany

Paula Benne, President/Owner, C & S Business Services

Dr. Don Claycomb, President, State Technical College of Missouri

Larry Linthacum, Superintendent, Jefferson City Public Schools  

A few of the questions we discussed were:

  • How has the workforce changed in the last 5 years?
  • What is your biggest hiring issue overall?
  • What are the trends in screening workforce? Is there a shift in hiring with a criminal history? Drug testing?
  • Do you have a strategy or policy in place to retain good talent?
  • Is the current workforce limiting productivity and/or opportunities for company growth?
  • Do you currently have employees that are overqualified for the current position(s)?
  • What are the obstacles at JCPS and STC in aligning students with the workplace? 

The day consisted of a lot of conversations and many difficult questions.  Workforce is not an easy topic and there aren’t easy or “silver bullet” answers.  Because of the uncertainty with the workforce and all of the challenges, the Chamber Board recently agreed it was time to commission a Labor Study.

One of the leading organization’s specializing in Labor Studies is The Docking Institute at Fort Hays State University.  In Missouri, The Docking Institute recently completed studies for Columbia, Boonville, Sedalia, Rolla and St. Joseph, just to name a few.  The Chamber contracted with The Docking Institute and they started working on the Labor Study the first part of May.  

Labor Study Objectives

From the data collected, the Labor Study will estimate the Available Labor Pool for the Jefferson City Labor Basin. The “available labor pool” consists of individuals that are either looking for work, would consider changing their current job, or would (re)enter the labor force for the right employment opportunities. 

The key variables that help to define the dynamics of the available workforce are:

  • The skills that members of the available labor pool possess (clerical, mechanical, sales, customer service, etc.)

  • The willingness to work outside of the primary field of employment.

  • The benefit requirements (health, retirement, educational and/or training opportunities, etc.) to (re)enter the labor force, or to change jobs if currently working.

  • The desired salary to enter or reenter the labor force, or to change jobs if currently working.

  • The number of minutes individuals are willing to travel for a new or different employment opportunity.

  • The present working status (employed, unemployed, retired, homemaker, full-time student, etc. as well as occupation if employed) of the Available Labor Pool.

  • Determine important socio-demographic characteristics of the available labor pool. These characteristics include average age, gender and educational level

  • Estimate job satisfaction among members of the Available Labor Pool and compare responses to non-Pool members.

From the study we will be able to estimate the percentage of the Available Labor Pool who consider themselves underemployed, potential entrepreneurs and individuals that are willing to take a new or different job in Jefferson City.

We will share the information with the community, with businesses and with potential businesses looking to locate to Jefferson City.  The Workforce Action Team that Randy spoke about in his article will then address issues and develop strategies.  

The Labor Study will be completed the end of June.

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