asked readers around the country to offer their observations on the state of their local job markets. Here's what readers in the Northeast had to say.
I am the sales director at a publishing firm in what I consider rural New Hampshire. The employment market is extremely tight. To hang onto our nonsalaried employees we have recently given the customer service group an across-the-board rate increase. I am trying to build a call center and cannot find anybody to staff it; and we pay more than other companies in the area. Last year I had good candidates, this year has been very tough.
Margins and growth have been driven by increasing our reliance on technology and e-commerce.
Every business has a help-wanted sign out, practically begging for people to come work for them. Wages are being bid up sharply. Tourism is completely out of control, the roads clogged with cars.
Where I live (western Maine), traditional manufacturing industries have been contracting for some time. Shoe manufacturers (e.g.,
in Wilton) have closed down completely, while paper manufacturers have down-sized to wring out operating efficiencies in a highly competitive global marketplace. Within the past month, the
mill in Rumford announced sizable layoffs, the second such announcement in a year. Things are not all that rosy here.
Things have really slowed down over the last several months. It appears that many large corporations have reduced their systems development work in order to lessen the number of technical variables going into 2000. My current position runs till the first quarter of 2000. If my current position ended now I would possibly have to take a pay cut for my next contract -- this is a reverse of a more-than-three-year-long trend of healthy increases. Everyone I talk with feels that things will pick up in the second quarter of next year -- with emphasis shifting from Y2K (and related backfilling) to the Internet front ends on existing legacy systems.
I live in Manhattan, work in northern New Jersey. Things here seem very tight in the labor market. I have stopped going to the
near my apartment because the lines are too long (they are constantly short help). Anyone who can walk and talk has a job.
Anyone who is unemployed now in this region is entirely unemployable or a Net zillionaire who has retired early and is unemployed by choice.
Here on the affluent Main Line of Philadelphia, it appears that employment is real tight. It's not the best economic measure available, but I watch for the volume of "Help Wanted" ads at local merchant shops. The help-wanted signs are ubiquitous and service is deteriorating at the car wash, the drug store and the unfast-food shops.
I can speak for the engineering business. I'm involved in engineering design for industries, steel, chemical and glass plants. It's dead around here.
I am sales manager for a large high-end retailer in Lancaster, Pa. We are having a very tough time finding people to work, and we pay several dollars above minimum wage for unskilled blue-collar workers. Overtime is not an issue -- we will gladly pay it if we can find people who will work.
This is nothing new, however, it has been extremely tight for several years now, and through conversations with other managers and business owners, I have found that we are not alone, we just have to keep squeezing more out of what we have. We currently have five full-time employees and they average 45 hours a week this is down from seven full-time employees three years ago. The fewer employees has forced us to hire better people, pay them higher wages and work them like dogs. While things are tight in the labor market here, it is not anything that can't be solved by greater output per worker. We are consistently finding ways to increase our productivity and each time we do the labor problem gets a little less severe.
I am a small-business owner in southeastern Pennsylvania and I have definitely seen an increase in wages in our area. On a daily basis I struggle to find quality part time and full time help at a wage rate that I can afford to pay. It was not long ago when offering full benefits along with a competitive wage was possible without having to worry about breaking the bank. These days, every time I hire competent employees, I worry about whether or not that person will bring a high enough return on investment to make themselves worthy. And let's not talk about keeping current employees. I cringe every time reviews come around. This trend will have to change and it may take
to put the brakes on rising wages.
My husband is a self-employed ceramic & marble installer. He has gotten to the point where he has had to turn away work. He works seven days a week with occasional days off for
games and normally puts in a 10- to 14-hour day. He is booked solid for the next two months with no break in sight. Things usually pick up before the winter holidays.
If the crunch is coming, we have no indication of it. Yes, it will come -- hopefully the worst-case scenario is that he will go back to working normal hours!
Ellen J. Omark
I graduated with an M.S. in engineering in '97 and went to work in relatively depressed upstate New York. I work in radar, tracking, algorithm development, etc., so you probably won't be surprised to hear that my recent job hunt (in May and June of this year) was embarrassingly easy.
As far as the regional picture goes, however, it's not quite so rosy. Sure, every fast food chain has a help wanted sign, but the starting wages aren't climbing to the levels of $7-$10 an hour. This contrasts strongly with my hometown of Lafayette, Ind., where I saw some "$10 to Start!" posters out during my June "between jobs vacation."
Last weekend I read the want ads for fun. I have a daughter at
so it is interesting for me periodically to gauge the market for her career path.
Two years ago the "Help Wanted" section of the Sunday paper was regularly three pages long. It now is 30 pages long. The jobs people are looking to fill are primarily professional. I know of one computer software company that takes on bright high school students and trains them in PERL and C++ just for the summer, because their business is expanding so rapidly!
By the same token, many rural areas upstate still have stagnant economies.
Carol A. Goss
The Boston and surrounding area scene is not chaotic, but is steadily getting there. The most indicative snapshot of the labor market around here, the Sunday
classifieds, has been steadily growing now for around two years. At the companies I've worked at, turnover and internal movement has risen as one of the most challenging forces to contend with. One note of interest is the difference in figures between pure unemployment and perceived underemployment. Although the biggest section of the
classifieds are the professional pages, this is mostly due to the size of their ads. And although that in and of itself says something about how much professional businesses are spending to lure the talent in the door, the swelling section of nonprofessional ads can attest to the upward migration. Even accounting for seasonal activity! In allegory: Even though the temperature in the oven is rising steadily, there are a lot of pizzas moving to different trays within the oven that can't be seen with the door closed.
North Andover, Mass.