by Dean Cousino
Monroe County has more than 66,200 residents available for employment, with their average age being 42 and 76.5 percent of them having at least some college education.
These and other data were gleaned from a local labor survey arranged by the Monroe County Business Development Corp. (BDC) to identify the available labor force in the county.
Charlene Page, vice president of business development for the BDC, gave a presentation on results of the survey at the Big Event last week.
“Labor is a huge issue for Monroe County businesses” looking to locate in the region, Ms. Page told about 50 people at the forum. “This is important for site selection. We use this data to complete our proposals for companies interested in our area. It also supports the labor (concerns) and expectations of current businesses wanting to expand.”
Labor is a key factor in site selection. In fact, availability of skilled labor was the No. 1 factor for site selection cited in a corporate survey in 2014 by Area Development magazine, she said.
The BDC in partnership with the Greater Ann Arbor Region hired Growth Services Group, a national labor market research firm, to survey residents in six counties through household phones and the Internet. The other counties were Lenawee, Hillsdale, Jackson, Livingston and Washtenaw counties. The survey was funded by a grant from the Michigan Economic Development Corp.
The Monroe County data will be used by the BDC for new business proposals and to aid existing businesses in their expansion projects.
The Monroe study showed that 44 percent, or 66,230 people, of the county’s total population are available to work. About 98 percent have at least a high school diploma and 76.5 percent have at least some college education.
Workers in STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and math) have more experience — 8.7 years — than the rest of the region, Ms. Page said. They also have more experience — 6.5 years — in production fields.
“We are a very hardworking population with 8.9 percent of the work force holding second jobs, especially those working in the retail, restaurant, maintenance and repair fields,” she said.
The average age of the workers was 42.
“Most are between 30 and 54,” she told the audience. advertisement
About 38 percent, or 25,000 of the work force, consider themselves “underemployed or currently underutilized in their jobs,” she said. The underemployed provide the “best opportunity for applicants to potential projects,” she noted.
“They statistically represent a subset of the total available work force that is normally more experienced and better educated than the total available work force in general,” she said. “The top motivators for changing jobs among those open for the right opportunities are 73.8 percent salary, 57.4 percent health benefits and 38.3 percent retirement benefits.”
Among those who are unemployed, a significantly higher portion indicated that a job closer to home was a determining factor, “which implies that transportation may be an issue for that subset,” she said.
The survey also indicated that 22 percent of the total available work force would be interested in a wage up to $12.99 an hour. The average desired wage an hour for the occupational categories shows that the professional and technical group is seeking $29.34 an hour; production, repair and installation group is seeking $19.63 an hour, and the service sector $19.11 an hour.
Currently, 32 percent of the work force commutes outside the county for work.
“This indicates to site selectors that we live in a mobile region where longer commute times are not only normal, but possible,” Ms. Page said.
Other data from the survey showed:
The work force is willing to commute an average of 23.1 minutes one way to work.
88 percent would be willing to travel more than 10 minutes one way.
20 percent would commute more than 30 minutes.
4.6 percent would travel more than 50 minutes.
In summary, she said the survey shows the county can provide an abundant and skilled labor force to include in its proposals to new businesses.
It also shows the county provides a “very stable and productive work force which is of interest to employers in a large-scale hiring mode.”
In addition, the county has several advantages with a community college nearby and being strategically located between Ann Arbor, Detroit and Toledo to provide access to higher education opportunities.