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It is better
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John Sumser

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(November 25, 2002) - You start by always knowing the local unemployment rate (UER) and the peculiarities of your geography. The experts will tell you that the UER is not very accurate and can be misleading. Just like Alexa statistics, the UER is all we currently have. While we're fixing problems, we can always hope that someone will improve the measurement process. Until they do, let's use the tools and data we can get.

There are 29 Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSA) in the continental United States with UERs at 3.0% or under. While Fargo leads the pack in the rush towards a desperate mess, College Station Texas is not far behind. At 1.8% unemployment, The Bryan-College Station MSA has the second lowest unemployment rate of any MSA is the country. 

For years, all net new employees have come from out of town. The areas growth, from 1990 to 2000 was about 18%, all from external sources. To maintain itself, the area needs a constant influx of new workers. Luckily, it lies near the Mexican border so that low level jobs continue to be accomplished while the more formal citizens experience upward mobility.

The scene in College Station will get interesting. As a percentage of the population, Hispanics, who now account for 27%, will grow rapidly towards 50%. In order to acquire continued growth, the city will simply be forced to find a way to import workers across the border. 

Since College Station was essentially developed as a low cost electronics manufacturing arena, there is little chance that the area will prosper with a cost increase approach. Raising wages simply makes the town unattractive to the owners of the companies who placed their plants because of the 'lower than national' wages.

When you look at extreme cases like Fargo and College Station, it becomes quite clear how dependent each of us are on the local labor market. Managing and influencing our supply sources is well beyond what we've traditionally been asked to do. We hardly have the tool with which to understand the problem.

All we can do from here is to urge you to take charge of your department and figure out where in the world your help is coming from. It's simply lazy to say that "the job board will take care of it". They are as liable as not to become the movers of people who are in play and not enough help to solve your real staffing issues. By grasping, measuring, monitoring and understanding your local labor supplies, you'll be able to take the next steps in advance of your (increasingly fierce) local competition.

Start now while there's a lag.

-John Sumser

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Materials written by John Sumser © TwoColorHat. All Rights Reserved.
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