Job vacancies outpace job seekers, driving up average income

In Henderson County, job openings are outstripping job seekers, leading to significant wage increases; however, these salary increases are still not keeping up with the cost of living.

With more than 3,000 job openings in Henderson County and only about 2,000 unemployed, the job market is tight, according to Henderson County Partnership for Economic Development President and CEO Brittany Brady. .

Average salaries in the region jumped about $3,000 a year, Brady said, compared to the $1,000 increase in average annual salary in previous years. Yet the average annual salary of $43,698, as reported by the North Carolina Department of Labor, is not enough to support an adult and child at the living income level of 50. $530, according to the NC Budget & Tax Center, a nonpartisan organization. who works to document economic conditions in communities.

“It’s probably ‘best of times, worst of times’ for workers and employers. For workers, labor markets are historically tight, employers are getting quite substantial wage increases and more flexibility on how well they do their jobs, employers are expanding their hiring pools to include many previously left-behind workers,” said Nathan Ramsey, executive director of the Land of Sky Regional Council and director of the Mountain Area Workforce Development Board. .

“For employers, their business demand is still relatively strong and many are hiring, unfortunately they are struggling to recruit and retain workers. There is a ‘war for talent’ between all employers, and often they are unable to provide salary increases that match inflation.”

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According to Ramsey, the region now has a record number of people in the labor market, a record number of jobs and a record number of people working. The economy is also “growing and booming,” Brady said, despite the fatigue many are feeling from the high number of job vacancies.

“I think in all areas, whether you’re in healthcare, manufacturing, retail, or hospitality, there’s been real fatigue in recent years and burnout in recent years. And that so certainly creates challenges,” she said. “Our office and our community as a whole are doing a lot to address this issue.”

Pardee Hospital in Hendersonville is one of many health care providers facing staffing shortages. however, according to Vice President of Workforce Development and Community Affairs John Bryant, part of what is driving the job openings for the hospital is the expansion of services it is currently undertaking. .

“I think if you talk to a hospital administrator or a health care system right now, you’ll recognize that we all face workforce challenges,” he said. “Whether it’s labor shortages or staff replacement trends, particularly over the last couple of years, we’re really proud here that one of the things we do is to see greater stability as we still deal with the challenges of the vacancy.”

Pardee Hospital is partnering with Blue Ridge Community College’s nursing program to help recruit new recruits, Bryant said, and while a key recruiting area is nursing, jobs are opening up across the board. organization, both in patient support and non-clinical roles. Another way the hospital attracts new hires is to offer competitive salaries and benefits.

“We don’t have any positions that pay less than $15 an hour, and that may not sound like a lot, but I think it’s a hugely important step when we’re talking about living wage adjustments,” he said. Bryant said. “So right now, the competitive nature of our clinical staff, the competitive nature of our non-clinical staff, and ensuring that we have market-leading benefit opportunities are priorities for us. .”

Every employer, Bryant said, would probably say it’s harder to find employees now than before the pandemic, but “every one of us is trying to make sure we’re providing great job opportunities.” to drive recruitment through existing employees who are happy in their jobs.

To address labor shortages, the Henderson County Partnership for Economic Development is also helping to create employment pathways through programs such as the Association of County Commissioners’ Pathways initiative. of North Carolina, whose objective is to help disconnected young people to return to the path of education or the labor market. , and Blue Ridge Community College. In addition, the partnership has a Workforce Development Task Force that is launching a new campaign.

Salaries and cost of living

With an average annual salary of $43,698 in Henderson County, many still cannot afford the necessities, even with the increase of more than $3,000 from last year.

“Unfortunately for workers, their living expenses are rising, in many cases, beyond their pay raises. For workers who need childcare, availability is lower than in the pandemic,” Ramsey said. .

The NC Budget & Tax Center reports that the living income level, or the amount that must be earned per year to live a modest life with no savings or emergency expenses, is $50,530 for one adult and one child or 68 $470 for two adults. and two children, which means many in the county fall below that threshold. The center also reports that between 2016 and 2020, 46% of paid renters spent more than 30% of their income on rent and 19% spent more than 50% on rent.

Employment in various industries

Job vacancies and unemployment are not evenly distributed across different industries. According to a Henderson County Q1 2022 report by JobsEQ, occupations related to food preparation and service had the highest unemployment rate at 6.4% and the lowest average annual salary at 25. $800, followed by personal care and services at 6.0% unemployment and an average salary of $30,300.

Jason Reasoner, executive chef and partner of Postero on Main Street in Hendersonville, said in an email in July that staff were an issue at his restaurant, and while the past two and a half years “have been bananas,” the industry was losing people for years before the pandemic.

“When the workforce becomes too small, we reduce our operations so as not to kill the employees we have and we are able to maintain the quality and integrity of what we do,” he said in the statement. ‘E-mail. “We recently made changes to kitchen pay rates. We have instituted a Kitchen Appreciation Board which benefits all kitchen employees.”

According to the same report, the occupation with the highest average salary, management operations at $96,600 per year, had a much lower unemployment rate of 1.9%, and the occupation with the second highest average salary high, the legal professions at $84,300, had an even lower unemployment rate. unemployment rate at 1.6%.

“What we’re seeing right now, ‘office type jobs’ have the lowest unemployment rate, so there seems to be some stability there,” Brady said. “Anecdotally, we think workplace flexibility is a big part of driving that right now.”

Even companies that have employees right now are not immune to staffing issues in the future, she said, and employers are currently seeing less stability in the market as a whole.

“For example, you might have a company that’s perfectly staffed, then two months ago the widgets they use to make their widgets suffered a supply chain disruption. And now that they don’t ‘don’t have this widget, they can’t do what they need to do, and so they have to change jobs,’ Brady said. ‘So it’s very difficult to determine precisely, if we could understand this thing , that would solve all the problems, because we are dealing with the supply chain, inflation and fuel.”