Wet March Dampens Job Report
Falling rain and rising mortgage rates combined to hammer construction payrolls in March. While California as a whole lost 10,800 payroll jobs last month, construction (-9400 jobs) accounted for the lion’s share of the deficit. It was the first payroll report in the red since May 2005. On the upside, four industries posted gains: leisure & hospitality (+6500), information (+3300), financial (+1500), and mining (+100). Other losers included trade, transit and utilities (-4100), professional business services (-3100), government (-2200), other services (-2100), manufacturing (-900), and education and health services (-400). The jobless rate, based on a household survey, improved from 5 to 4.8 percent. That nearly matched the US rate of 4.7 percent.
Tug of War for Talent
Two factors indicate that the balance of power in the labor market may be quickly shifting toward those looking for work. First, jobseekers are finding work faster. Second, companies report having difficulty finding needed talent. According to outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, its quarterly survey of supervisors seeking work found that the median job search took only 2.7 months – one month less than just two years ago. It was also the lowest job-search time recorded since 2001, just before the dot-com collapse. On the other side of the desk, Challenger found that in a survey of human resources managers, 66 percent complained it was becoming more difficult to find qualified candidates. Twenty-five percent said they were already experiencing a severe shortage of workers. “Already, some employers are offering higher salaries, signing bonuses and other special benefits in an effort to attract and retain the best talent,” notes CEO John Challenger. The tug-of-war for talent has already led to creative benefits – from picking up employee dry cleaning, offering oil changes in the parking lot, and paying an employee’s college tuition.
On the Job Front
CALIFORNIA – Despite the dot-com implosion, California remains the top state in the nation when it comes to high-tech employment. According to the American Electronics Association annual report, California boasts 904,900 high-tech workers earning $90,600 on average in 2004 . . . Efforts to allow employees to work four ten-hour days without being paid overtime failed in the State Assembly last week. Eight hours remains the workday standard.
MOUNTAIN VIEW – Biotech firm Benitec is cutting half its staff in hopes of slashing payroll by $100,000 per month. The company, which did not reveal how many employees would be let go, plans to use the savings to further development of new drugs.
OAKLAND – Teachers canceled a one-day walkout when union representatives reached a tentative agreement with the local school district. The pact calls for a 6 percent pay raise over three years . . . Approximately 1000 supermarket janitors from throughout Northern California rallied here for affordable healthcare coverage and improved wages. A union spokesman noted that the janitors can be paid as little as $5 an hour and work seven days a week, often without healthcare benefits.
RANCHO CORDOVA – Contractors’ Warehouse, a retail division of Home Depot designed to serve builders, is scheduled to open Aug 1 with 50 workers.
SACRAMENTO – Nationwide Health Plans is consolidating its local call centers on June 1, disconnecting 46 workers.