Scarce as Economy Booms
Hiring plans for the coming year seems to reflect the shrinking pool of qualified job candidates and companies’ efforts to manage their growth rates.
San Diego’s jobless rate dropped to 2.7 percent in November, down from last month’s 2.9 percent and last year’s 3.3 percent, according to reports from the Employment Development Department.
Just like last year, San Diego in November beat out the state’s unemployment rate of 4.8, and 3.8 percent unemployment rate for the country.
Although unemployment may not stay so low, local companies are feeling the crunch as they look for more employees to grow their business.
Most companies expect to slightly increase the number of employees if they do at all, according to the 10th Annual Deloitte & Touche/San Diego Business Journal Economic Outlook Survey.
The 194 survey respondents offered their employment plans for the coming year. The industries surveyed were aerospace and defense, biotech, E-commerce, financial institutions, electronics and manufacturing, health care, real estate and construction, retail and wholesale, service, and tourism and hospitality.
The Year Ahead
For 2000, 73 of the companies said they do not plan any change in the number of employees. Another 71 companies expect to increase their payroll by 1 percent to 5 percent. Only 19 percent of companies expect to increase the number of employees by more than 5 percent.
According to 128 of the respondents, the outlook for San Diego’s business growth is good over the next three to five years; however, finding qualified employees may prove to be a challenge. Sixty percent of companies surveyed said they experienced some difficulty in hiring qualified employees this past year. Some believe it will continue to be a challenge.
“Everybody’s business is very good and is anxiously looking for qualified, capable workers to help expand business even more,” said Phil Blair, executive officer of San Diego operations for Manpower Inc. “They are having difficulty finding workers that are skilled and committed.”
The Milwaukee-based firm fills local staffing needs for a multitude of positions requiring clerical to industrial to high-tech skills. The company has 10 offices throughout San Diego and Riverside counties and recently opened two training centers.
Blair said telecommunications and customer service are growing in San Diego and believes the economy will be good in 2000 and 2001. Higher productivity is also inflating wages and attracting “good people with good attitudes” who can be trained for available positions, he said.
Companies can also help themselves in the quest for qualified personnel. First, Blair suggests firms outsource jobs, such as customer service, that are outside of the company’s expertise.
Secondly, businesses can institute training campaigns or mentorships within the company to help employees upgrade their current skills. Lastly, employers can use staffing agencies that specialize in finding qualified workers.
Qualified Labor Pool
The real estate and construction sector is another industry struggling to find personnel. Out of 37 companies in the business, 51 percent endured some difficulty and 32 percent found it extremely difficult to recruit qualified individuals.
Despite the effort involved, San Diego-based Ninteman Construction Co. Inc. increased the number of countywide employees from 124 to 242, according the Business Journal’s 1998 and 1999 Lists of Largest Area Building Contractors.
Joe Grosshart, director of preconstruction services for Ninteman, said the company is growing in response to an increase in construction volume over the past couple of years.
While there may be plenty of work, it doesn’t mean there are plenty of workers. Grosshart said the task of finding qualified personnel has become difficult. The company seeks out people who have experience in construction or engineering.
“All of our competitors are out looking for good people just like we are, and really the available pool in San Diego is expended,” he said.
Grosshart said he expects the company to grow, but not as much as in recent years. At any given time Ninteman may only be looking for another person or two, but that may not be the case for other companies.
Grosshart doesn’t expect construction or employment opportunities to dwindle in San Diego any time soon.
Most of Ninteman’s employees were found through networking. The problem now is everybody is working and nobody wants to leave their current job, he said. The search for workers also is extending outside of the area.
As competition for qualified personnel increases, companies are offering more to prospective employees. Higher salaries and bonuses are a “standard means of attracting or maintaining people,” Grosshart said.
Firms are also emphasizing stability and long-term futures or they’re offering more benefits such as car allowances or stock options, he added.