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2010 State of the Workforce Report Predicts Uneven Short-Term Jobs Recovery

August 11, 2010

Nearly 400 business, education and civic leaders attended the second annual, 2010 State of St. Louis Workforce Conference, Looking Beyond the Veil of the Recession, held earlier today at the Missouri History Museum in Forest Park. Presented by the St Louis Business Journal, the program was co-sponsored by St. Louis Community College, the Missouri Career Center and the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center (MERIC), Missouri Department of Economic Development. Ellen Sherberg, publisher, St. Louis Business Journal, and Roderick Nunn, MPA, CWP, vice chancellor, St. Louis Community College Workforce and Community Development, served as facilitators. The program opened with Missouri statistics and research results from interviews with over 1,500 area employers and 300 dislocated workers, presented by Marti Romitti, director, MERIC, and David Laslo, president, Strategic Research & Analytics, LLC. The complete 2010 State of the Workforce Report and experts' blog posts from the event can be found at http://stlworkforce.org.

"There is a fundamental economic realignment underway in our region," said Nunn. "Our research shows that despite anecdotes on the overabundance of human capital available to companies, the St. Louis workforce is striving to align with new and emerging skill requirements. Unfortunately, employers are finding a lack of general knowledge of their business or industry (25.4 percent), a poor work ethic (23.8 percent) and a lack of critical thinking and problem solving (22.2 percent). Also, employers are stressing the importance of middle skill jobs - those requiring more than a high school diploma but less than a four-year degree."

Employer & Industry Outlook
Respondents to the employer survey, representing 1,500 companies located within the Missouri counties of Franklin, Jefferson, Lincoln, St. Charles, St. Louis, St. Louis City, Warren and Washington County, and the Illinois counties of Bond, Calhoun, Clinton, Jersey, Macoupin, Madison, Monroe and St. Clair Counties, generally reported that their company's financial health or profitability was greater than that of their industry. Nearly six out of 10 - 59 percent - reported their company's financial health or profitability as excellent or very good, as compared to less than four out of ten - 37 percent - reporting their industry's health as excellent or very good.

St. Louis companies also are optimistic about their sales or revenue performance for next year and, especially, in the next five years. The number of companies reporting sharp increases in sales is expected to rise from 9.6 percent in the past year to 20.4 percent in five years. The number of companies expecting declines is expected to fall to 4.6 percent from 29.4 percent in the next five years. The three most frequent challenges to company growth reported were #1 - government regulation (23.8 percent), access to capital (19.4 percent) and finding qualified labor (14.6 percent).

Employment Outlook
Although the short-term outlook is still mixed for job recovery, the number of employers reporting an increase in employment in the next year, compared to in five years, more than doubled from 19.4 percent to 46 percent. Local companies report that approximately 1.6 percent of their workforce will retire in the next year or nearly one in six workers (16 percent) in the coming decade. However, national data suggests that workers age 65 and older continued to work longer in 2009 compared to the 2001 recession. The most common reported retirement age of workers in the past five years was between 65 and 69 years of age (41.9 percent) and between 60 and 64 years of age (36.6 percent).

How Companies are Recruiting
In a word, how job applicants "connect" counts. Survey results show that the most common methods for recruiting employees were referrals (71.4 percent), Internet (36.8 percent) and newspaper (30.4 percent).
The most common method for companies to add employees was to hire new full-time employees (41.7 percent), an increase over the 34 percent of companies that reported that method the previous year. The option to hire new part-time employees increased to 37 percent from 32 percent last year.

Current Occupation Demand
Industries with the largest number of companies reporting job openings were health care and social assistance (35.3 percent), retail trade (34.6 percent) and unclassified businesses (33.3 percent). Of the top 25 occupations with the most reported openings, 10 are classified as medium skill occupations (jobs that require more than a high school diploma but less than a four-year degree), while 12 are classified as high skill occupations (minimum four-year degree.)

Labor Market Conditions
The report reflects a perceived general skill mismatch between job applicants and job requirements. In addition to the issues cited on page one within Nunn's quote, employers cited poor economic conditions (41.5 percent) and shortage of skilled workers or available training programs (25.8 percent) as the greatest barriers to expanding employment. In contrast, the 2009 survey results reflected poor economic conditions (30 percent) and shortage of skilled workers or available training programs (23 percent).

Workforce Skills
The proportion of the workforce requiring middle and high skills is anticipated to increase over the next five years. Almost one in four (24.2 percent) of employers expect high skills jobs to increase while over one in five (21.2 percent) expect middle skill job requirements to increase over the next five years.

The report also covers benefits and financial incentives, and hours of work and productivity, and industry & employment impacts

Dislocated Worker Survey
More than 300 laid-off workers also were surveyed to capture their skill level, work history and career goals. The survey was administered through One-Stop Career Centers in Missouri and Illinois along with Go! Network and Bounce Back St. Louis. Of those surveyed, 64 percent have been unemployed for more than one year, 52.1 percent were offered severance pay, 31.5 percent have no health insurance, and 46 percent held a supervisory of management position.

Of those surveyed, 74.7 percent are willing to seek employment in a new industry, 63.3 percent would enroll in a course to improve skills, 40 percent would be willing to train in new job skills through accelerated training programs (8-10 weeks), 69.6 percent report that the need to earn wages to support self and family is a barrier to entering an education program, and 81 percent would be willing to commute between 16-50 miles one-way to work.

Dislocated workers also were asked about their interest in entrepreneurship. More than 67 percent would take advantage of business start-up resources from a government or education institution; 42.3 percent who started a business reported a negative impact on their family finances; 45.7 percent indicated financing as the greatest barrier to starting a business; and 10 percent have started a business in the past 12 months, while 12.7 percent indicated they plan to start a business in the next 12 months.

Discussing the report results were: H.O. Brownback, vice president of planning, evaluation and development, Southwestern Illinois College; Dr. Ray Cummiskey, president, Jefferson College; Julie Gibson, director, Missouri Division of Workforce Development, Department of Economic Development; Gene Gorden, executive director, St. Louis County Division of Workforce Development; Michael Holmes, executive director, St. Louis Agency on Training & Employment (SLATE), Rick Hunter, principal, Microgrid Energy; Dr. Marcia Pfeiffer, president, St. Louis Community College - Florissant Valley; Steve Pulliam, vice president, operations & deputy general manager, GKN; JoAnn Shaw, vice & chief learning officer, BJC healthcare; David Stoecklin, executive director, Madison County Employment & Training, and Steve Wilson, director of human resources, Sigma-Aldrich Corp.