Area people attend a OhioMeansJobs Montgomery County and Wright-Patterson Air Force Base career fair at the Dayton Convention Center in April
Photo: Marshall Gorby
Photo: Marshall Gorby

Strong economy forces local employers to scramble to find workers

The U.S. economy keeps creating jobs and workers are harder to find, in Dayton and beyond.

Total non-farm payroll employment increased by 263,000 in April — a better-than-expected number — and the unemployment rate declined to 3.6 percent, the lowest rate in nearly half a century, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Friday.

The new report marks a full year with unemployment pegged at four percent or lower.

“The U.S. economy is in good shape in the spring of 2019,” PNC Bank Chief Economist Gus Faucher said in a statement.

The biggest job gains happened in professional and business services, construction, health care, and social assistance, the government said.

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“These days companies find themselves looking in new places for employees,” Doug Barry, president of Dayton staffing firm BarryStaff, said Friday. “For example, it was unheard of a few years ago for manufacturing companies to search online for candidates. But competition for workers is stiff.”

Manufacturing employment held mostly stable for the third month in a row (adding 4,000 jobs in April).

Dennis Miller, chief executive of Troy manufacturing and machining company Stillwater Technologies, said his company has long needed qualified employees.

That puts him in good company, locally and nationally.

“We’re no different than a lot of companies in the area,” Miller told the Dayton Daily News in a recent interview. “We’re always struggling for employees. We have to find good and qualified people.”

A “hot” economy makes it tougher to get workers, he said. “There’s a constant growth and opportunity that we’re looking for,” said Miller, whose company has about 85 people in Troy.

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With its business, Stillwater can’t wait six months for the right employee to show up. “We typically, when we have an opening, we have an immediate need for that person.”

Don Doggett, plant superintendent for Stillwater, said the company could take on additional work if it could find more of the right people.

“We’re growing, and we need to add people, and they’re just not here now,” Doggett said.

Nationally, wages are also rising, with average hourly wages for private-sector workers growing 3.2 percent from a year earlier, indicating a very healthy economy.

The U.S. unemployment rate declined by 0.2 percentage point to 3.6 percent in April, the lowest rate since December 1969, the BLS said.

Over the month, the number of unemployed persons decreased by 387,000 to 5.8 million.

In Western Ohio, health care offers some of the the most plentiful job openings, according to new data released Friday from the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services.

Western Ohio is expected to have more than 8,000 annual job openings in in-demand occupations through 2024, the state said.

Those in-demand professions include registered nurses, with 516 annual openings, according to the state.

Also on the “in-demand” list for Western Ohio are nursing assistants, office clerks, team assemblers, licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses, truck drivers, customer service representatives and more.

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