Brower: On the shared misery of our low employment rate (column) | SkyHiNews.com
Patrick Brower
Guest column

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Brower: On the shared misery of our low employment rate (column)

If shared misery makes local business people and entrepreneurs feel better, then I've got some great news.

The Denver Post reported last week that the Colorado unemployment rate is at 2.6 percent, a 41-year low. This makes it the lowest in the nation and the lowest ever since the state started tracking unemployment rates. Nationally, the rate is 4.5 percent.

The state's unemployment rate tracks closely with Grand County's.

This fits in the shared misery category because, as discussed before in this space, one of the biggest problems facing Grand County business people and budding entrepreneurs is the difficulty in finding help.

I think employers should also start giving serious thought to helping employees find housing, either by providing the housing or by working hard to pool housing interests to find out what’s available.

The Colorado Workforce Center can help employees find work and it can help employers find workers. But the truth is that it's difficult to find good reliable employees. And from the employee's perspective, it's difficult to find the right job at the right pay.

So what are entrepreneurs and business people in Grand County to do? Grand County is poised to grow even more than it already has, but it's going to be difficult to grow well without a sufficient workforce.

I was surprised to read that while the average number of hours worked per week by non-farm workers was 32.8, the average hourly earnings amounted to $27.35 per hour. This includes hourly and salaried workers, of course, but my guess is that seeing such a rate should give local employers food for thought.

One clever idea mentioned in the Post article was to pay a recruitment bonus to any employee who finds someone to work on the job for more than just three months. One company was paying a $500 recruitment bonus, up from $100 just a year ago.

Other ideas for employers came down to a suggestion to "hire quickly" and not needlessly draw out the hiring process. Another idea was to give more vacation time.

My suggestion is to pay more as I feel that we lag behind "normal" pay rates here in Grand County. But even Colorado in general suffers from that problem, as suggested by comments from Andrew Hudson, who runs one of the leading job listing web sites for the Front Range.

He said in the Post article that while wages are rising, they aren't keeping up with the continuing escalation in living costs. The biggest factor in living costs is rent. Of course, here in Grand County, rent is a big concern, but just finding a place at all is an even bigger concern.

Interesting for an older guy like me was Hudson's comment that older workers are complaining about discrimination when it comes to hiring.

All that being said, it reminds me how this sort of news can be useful to anyone who is hoping to start or expand a business. I feel that cash flow projections are an important tool that can help any businessperson prepare for what's coming in the future. This news about statewide unemployment, coupled with what we already know about the market in Grand County, has particular meaning.

In other words, project to spend more on employees than what might be the norm. It's clearly competitive out there for good employees and there's nothing quite as enticing as more money to close an employment deal.

I think employers should also start giving serious thought to helping employees find housing, either by providing the housing or by working hard to pool housing interests to find out what's available.

And while employers kibbutz about the shared misery of not having enough help, perhaps they could come up with ideas for sharing help, making one employee's part-time job a full-time job. This could help with retention and hiring.

Statewide we can share our misery, offering slight consolation. Locally, we can share jobs, housing and perks, perhaps offering some relief from the low-unemployment dilemma.

Patrick Brower is the enterprise facilitator for the Grand Enterprise Initiative. He provides free and confidential business management coaching for anyone who wants to start or expand a business in Grand County. He can be reached at 970-531-0632 or at patrickbrower@kapoks.org.