Low unemployment rate? Many still seek jobs

Updated 4/3/2017 1:29 PM

When the unemployment rate hangs around 4.7 percent, as it did late last month, common sense would indicate that hiring is tight -- especially for smaller and mid-size businesses that have little in-house time or expertise to undertake an extensive hunt for new employees.

But finding workers may not be all that tough, other than in a particular industry or two. Kaili Harding, president of the Schaumburg Business Association, says her members aren't talking much about hiring problems -- except in manufacturing and retail.


Part of the issue in manufacturing is a changed environment, Harding says. "It's a different workplace, a different environment -- clean, almost pristine." While that's likely good, "pristine" is rarely the image most of us have of manufacturing sites.

Retail has its own issues. With big chains closing stores, "It's easier (for retail workers) to find more career-type jobs in other industries," Harding says. On the other hand, store closings free up experienced workers for smaller stores.

There may be more people looking for jobs than recent unemployment data indicate. "If you look at part-timers who are looking for full-time work; discouraged workers coming off the sidelines; those whose unemployment has outlasted their benefits; new graduates coming into the marketplace; and homemakers coming into the market, the actual unemployment rate probably is in the 9 percent range," says Bob Podgorski.

He is president of R.P.P. LLC, an HR-related consulting firm headquartered in Hoffman Estates and, since 2003, a leadership force behind the nondenominational St. Hubert Job & Networking Ministry.

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Business owners seeking employees have options:

• Lisa Buehler, president of The Hire Solution Employment Corp., Oakbrook Terrace, suggests that business owners "connect with their industry association -- or find a small business group, not a leads or networking group, but a membership where you can share best practices and similar topics.

"If you're trying to grow your flooring company or garage door repair business, talking with similar people means that you'll have a number of 'recruiters' keeping their ears open for you," she says.

• Podgorski suggests offering senior internships, "not just programs for new grads but internships for older workers who have an innate (workplace) intelligence.

"Bring back Baby Boomers to be trainers to help potential new employees adapt."

That could be particularly important in manufacturing where, Podgorski notes, "We've moved from a manufacturing base without technology to a sector where one employee doesn't just run a machine but now must be able to program the machine as well."


In fact, Podgorski says, senior internships can be a positive change for potential employees "willing to step back and get a running start."

• Tap into sources such as St. Hubert's network, Hoffman Estates based but suburban-wide, where the job board has 25-30 new postings a day and 3,200 people get 15-20 job updates a day. That's a lot of competition for workers, but remember Podgorski's contention that a great many people are looking.

2017 Kendall Communications Inc. Follow Jim Kendall on LinkedIn and Twitter. Write him at Jim@kendallcom.com. Listen to Jim's Business Owners' Pod Talk at www.kendallcom.com/podcast.

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