Record low unemployment increases recruiting challenges for employers; important to boost job creation in rural Washington

As unemployment rates reach lows not seen in years, employers face increased challenges in finding qualified employees.  Washington is among the states posting the best employment performance. At Calculated Risk (source of the graph above), Bill McBride writes,

The size of the blue bar indicates the amount of improvement.   The yellow squares are the lowest unemployment rate per state since 1976.

Note: The larger yellow markers indicate the states that reached the all time low since the end of the 2007 recession.  These nine states are: Arkansas, California, Colorado, Maine, Mississippi, North Dakota, Oregon, Washington, and Wisconsin.

The Associated Press reports,

Overall, the figures suggest that steady, if slower, hiring this year is improving the job market in many states. Florida added nearly 30,000 jobs last month, the most of any state, followed by New York with nearly 28,000 and North Carolina with almost 19,000. 

Still, the job gains nationwide have slowed in the past couple of months. Hiring averaged 121,000 a month in the past three months, down from 201,000 in the preceding three. Economists say the decline has occurred mostly because hiring typically slows as the pool of unemployed dwindles. The nationwide unemployment rate is at a 16-year low of 4.3 percent.

Arkansas’ unemployment rate dropped to 3.4 percent in May, a record low. Mississippi, Oregon and Washington state also reported record lows, all dating back to 1976.

Unemployment rates in Arkansas, Oregon and Washington fell because more residents in those states found jobs.

Note that hiring “slows as the pool of unemployed dwindles.”

The Seattle Times reports on hiring conditions in the Seattle metro area

With the Seattle-Bellevue-Everett-area unemployment rate at a 9-year low, and the statewide jobless rate at a historical bottom, restaurants and hotels aren’t the only ones scrambling to find enough workers.

“We are in a job-seeker’s market,” said Anneliese Vance-Sherman, regional labor economist with the state Employment Security Department. “Job seekers are finding it easier to secure employment, and employers are in a position of needing to compete with other employers for qualified candidates.”

Other factors may be exacerbating the metro hiring challenge.

The higher wages in Seattle may also be making it harder to fill positions for businesses there and nearby cities that don’t pay as much…

The high cost of living, especially in Seattle and the Eastside, is also making it difficult to find employees.

The Seattle Times story looks at impacts on various sectors; we encourage you to read it in its entirety. We also want to call your attention to a Times analysis of a trend we noted earlier: the rise of supercommuters. The Seattle Times reports,

In 2015, about 57,000 people in the Seattle area endured commutes of at least 90 minutes from home to work, a jump of nearly 24,000 since 2010. That equals a 72 percent increase in just five years, ranking Seattle third among the 50 largest U.S. metros for the rate of growth for mega-commuters.

Who ranks ahead of us? Not surprisingly, two other metros where sky-high home prices have folks moving to increasingly far-flung places: San Francisco and San Jose, California.

While there may be no easy solution to these challenges – and, of course, these may be seen as challenges posed by prosperity; not a bad problem – a couple of thoughts come to mind. First, as we emphasize, we need to do everything possible to ensure that Washington students have the skills required to fill the 740,000 jobs expected to be opening in the next five years. Second, policymakers should intensify efforts to boost job creation outside the metro Seattle region, as many rural counties continue to struggle with high unemployment rates.