Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Employers Find Ways to Cope with Tight Labor Market

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Employers Find Ways to Cope with Tight Labor Market

Article excerpt

Some employers are finding it difficult just to find enough workers to properly staff their operations.

The Oklahoma Employment Security Commission reported June's unemployment rate at 3.6 percent. It hasn't been that low since the oil boom days of September 1981, when it was 3.3 percent. Oklahoma City's June jobless rate was even lower at 2.9 percent.

Richard McPherson, with the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission, predicted the July figures, due out today, will not show a significant change. But while that might make human resources managers cringe, some business leaders say the situation may benefit Oklahoma's economy in the long run. Reece Van Horn, manager of business recruitment and expansion for the Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce, said the crunch is mainly felt in the lower paying jobs and certain other sectors, but the tight market has not yet hampered economic development efforts. McPherson said three areas are experiencing the highest shortages: construction, medical and high tech. "Anything that has to do with computers, it's fierce," he said. Many employers are coping with the tight market by offering benefits packages they might not have offered even a few years ago. Others are providing "sign-on bonuses," negotiating the terms with prospective employees. "The market has just really made a turnaround," McPherson said. "Easily five years ago, it was an employers' market." Some have been able to attract workers in the tight market by using unconventional means, such as the Internet. That allows employers to sift through prospective hirees without them necessarily knowing they are being considered for a job. McPherson said his Missouri counterparts have created a "Talent Bank" over the Internet, which eventually will be available in Oklahoma through the OESC. "The Talent Bank is going to allow employers to speed up that process and be more discreet and probably improve their selection," he said. His agency is also working with the Department of Human Services to help get people off welfare and into the workforce. While some people on welfare may even have a college degree, many need some preparation before getting into the workforce. For in- stance, some may need literacy training, a general equivalency degree or interview training. "A lot of these people aren't ready for the labor market immediately," he said. "Occasionally, you will get a small number of people where (welfare) is a temporary thing. Not all of them are going to require this intense concentration." The State Chamber, through its workforce development program, will host a welfare-to-work seminar for human resource managers in Tulsa and Oklahoma City in September. The day-long events will look at the issue from the aspect of the labor market needs, the role of the public sector and the employer both in terms of employer needs and incentives. …

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