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asked readers around the country to offer their observations on the state of their local job markets. Here's what readers in the South had to say.

The job market is smoking in the Metro Atlanta region. It's impossible to find good help and difficult to find bad help. From bagboys to computer engineers, people are jumping from company to company for better offers. Outstate Georgia is a different story, especially in rural areas. But who would want to live there anyway?


Bruce L. Floyd

I work in both the Atlanta area and Macon. I was out of work for a month when I quit my job, and I had been looking for four months before that. Companies were being very selective, and wanting to pay low salaries. Not real indicative of a hot market, particularly in Atlanta, where business is booming.

I am a very senior software engineer, and we all have heard about the so-called shortage in this field. There is a shortage in this area, but not the level the business world would like you to believe. What there is, is a shortage of software engineers willing to work for what an experienced truck driver can make. If business leaders can convince congress that there is a shortage in this field, then they can go offshore and hire foreign engineers at half the cost, and less than what many blue-collar non-college grads make!


James Belcher
Macon, Ga.

I live in Boykins, Va. 23827, 17 miles WSW of Franklin, Va.

The wages in this area are low, minimum through out the area, the main employer in the area

Franklin the paper mill was sold this past month and was bought by

International Paper


. They have transferred numerous people and are laying off as I understand approximately 600 people. These people are from all around the area and many from the state of North Carolina. In our town there is one small company; they employ approximately 50 people. I do believe most of the people in town are on welfare.

We do need to have some industry in this area other than one or two companies. This area has been a farming area but that does not support the people here. Numerous people have to drive to Norfolk for work but wages are not that good there either.


E.W. Rutter
Boykins, Va.

Our labor market is extremely tight. Competence is no longer a requirement for employment, only a heartbeat. Unskilled workers now demand to be paid for what they wish they were worth.


F. Lane Mitchell
Shreveport, La.

Southside Virginia, like many rural areas of the country, is not in full swing. Unemployment, while low by our standards, still hangs in the 4-5% range. Wage pressure seems moderate particularly in the higher-paying factories (








). Some wage pressure at the lower end (textiles & tobacco). However, increased productivity in textiles and foreign competition should keep the unit labor costs under control.

Tobacco has its own set of problems keeping leaf prices and wages in line. Employers seem to have the most difficulty with entry level positions in low pay areas like fast food and retail. Overall, wages and unit labor cost seem to be rising no faster than inflation. Improving productivity may still have the advantage in our area as local industry continues to invest in new facilities and we continue to move away from small farm agriculture.


Terry Shadrick
Danville, Va.

Here in Charlotte, N.C., all it takes to get a job offer is to walk into any establishment and cast a shadow. Many businesses are on the brink of shutting down for want of employees. Skilled, unskilled, even professional jobs are going unfilled because there aren't enough workers. For many labor-intensive businesses, it's like being in a recession because volume is limited to a level below break-even; not by lack of demand, but by restricted capacity.

We could use some more people down here.


David Fitch
Charlotte, N.C.

Fairfax, Arlington, Loudoun, Prince William counties and Alexandria, Fairfax and Manassas cities -- 1.9+ million people. Really hurting for high tech workers and also for construction, low-skilled and service workers. Advertising in Silicon Valley for high tech. Employing many non-English speaking immigrants for construction and service industry positions for which they are unqualified. Large bonuses are given for relocation of high tech computer-related, telecommunications, etc. And even bonuses and incentives for cashiers and waiters/waitresses.


Larry Larsen
Fairfax, Va.

We are a small employee consulting, sales and third-party administrator headquartered in southeast Florida, Philadelphia and Atlanta. In Atlanta there is full employment. We no longer advertise for any type of employee in Atlanta and have moved all of our administration to our Florida office. There we must advertise for weeks on end, but we do get people. It is my feeling that anyone employable in Atlanta has a position and only the marginal are available (maybe not even that level).

In southeast Florida we just lost a clerical employee who was hired by



as a manager for $6,000 per year more, and $4,000-$5,000 in benefits. We couldn't come close to meeting that offer, and I don't know how they did it.


Name Withheld

One interesting anecdote from my workplace. I work in a coal-fired electric generating plant, owned by

Central & Southwest


. In our annual overhauls, the contract labor on-site is typically a couple hundred workers. Every overhaul sees more and more women and minorities. The supervisors tell us that help is getting extremely hard to find. AND in our last outage (April-May), the company's man-hour cost rose by a whopping $8 an hour over the previous year!


Name Withheld
Rogers, Ark.

This is a retirement area and the economy normally does very well with all the retired senior citizens drawing pensions and social security. Average age is probably 60 years old or over.

The newspapers state unemployment below 3% and it's been hard getting people due to lack of qualified people.

I'm about ready to pack up and move 50 miles south back to Orlando or 45 miles east to Daytona Beach which has a lot of people. Getting clerical-type help is just real hard here. There are quite a few new restaurants --

Golden Corral


Sonny's BarBQ

, a new

Outback Steakhouse

-- opening and they just siphon off the people that several years ago were glad to get a job.


Pat Calby
Central Florida

I own a pharmacy and medical equipment business in the Tampa, Fla., area.

We have a shortage of pharmacists and technicians and never had such trouble getting support help. In fact I am back at work much of the time vs. my past managerial role. And we pay wages that are much higher than our chain competition, but require that our folks have a "brain." We have resorted to hiring college students from our local college and are having to learn to deal with constant training and the stress of part time help.

This problem has caused us to sell other businesses and curtailed further expansion ideas. We are looking for quicker, simpler ways of making money that do not require high-level experienced help.

We have NO pricing power to increase prices. The market is very competitive. We have trimmed inventories, and are using the computer more to predict inventory needs, etc.

On the consumer side -- it is very difficult to find construction help. If you need a roof -- for example -- expect a two- to six-month wait. Handymen are booked for three months.

Homes in our area are selling quickly at the ask price after a few years of price stability.


Guerry Fritch
Tampa, Fla.

Labor has never been so scarce. Even low hourly positions are hard to fill. Skilled labor is being pirated from company to company which is driving up wages. And lets not even talk about the construction industry. Counties can't process all the permits. Any skilled tradesman can find all the work that he wants. We are seeing people migrate here for jobs, causing apartment shortages. Apartments are being built left and right. There has not been much inflation in hard materials (except those that are in under supply such as drywall) but contractors have raised all their margins. We need a 150-basis-point increase in long rates to cool it down.


Lee Smith
Orlando, Fla.