Construction work continues on the Bell Estates Apartments in Dundee. Work on the next wave of construction had stalled, but started again this winter. (Monroe News file photo)
By Alex Alusheff – Monroe Evening News – Monday, January 12, 2015, 08:00 a.m.
Monroe County’s unemployment rate for November was the lowest it’s been in 12 years. At a rate of 4.5 percent, unemployment is .7 percent lower than October and 2.3 percent lower than November, 2013, according to the Michigan Department of Technology, Management and Budget. This rate hasn’t been seen since September, 2002. “ November is usually a swing month, but what we’re seeing is overall strength in this period of the year,” said Jim Rhein, DTMB economic analyst for Monroe County. “It’s pretty impressive.” Since November, 2013, the labor force grew 700 to 71,400, while employment rose 2,300 to 68,200. Job growth in the county has mainly been reported as full-time positions in the construction and manufacturing industries, Mr. Rhein said. “It’s good for the county because it means were producing more products,” said Tim Lake, president and chief executive officer of the Monroe County Business Development Corp. “It means we have a more robust economy.” Housing construction is one of the industries in the county that has seen a lot of growth this past year, said Bill Kipf, executive officer of the Home Builders Association of Monroe County.
“It’s been a busy year,” Mr. Kipf said. “ There’s a shortage of good product to sell, demand is high and interest rates are low.” Mr. Kipf said a lot of new houses have been built in Bedford, Dundee, Frenchtown Township and Monroe Township. “People are working and feel more secure in the economy,” he said as to some of the reasons for the homes being built. While there’s more work for some businesses, the problem is getting skilled workers to fill positions. “There are more jobs available than there are people to fill them in both construction and manufacturing,” said Mr. Lake. He said the lack of skilled people filling these jobs is stunting the county’s growth, noting that a tool and die business in the county had to outsource machine work because there were not enough people applying for the job. “We need to continue as a community to get folks trained and into the community with these skill sets,” Mr. Lake said. “ We need to fill that pipeline of talent. Once we do, then we are well on our way to moving things up the ladder. We’ve still got a lot of work to do.”