The nation's employment picture is brighter for 1995 than it has been in more than a decade, and that is good news and bad news. The good news is, there will be more job opportunities, but the bad news is that fewer workers will be available to fill those jobs. Economic growth, particularly in the durable and nondurable goods manufacturing segments, means unemployment levels dropped significantly, and recruiters report an increased demand for plastics industry personnel from every region of the country. However, the Midwest and South continue to outpace the rest of the country in growth and new hiring.
An unemployment level in the Midwest of less than 5 percent - the lowest since the 1960s, according to one economic report - has resulted in higher wages and fueled what one molder called ``fierce competition for employees in all types of jobs.''
Mike Martin, president and general manager for Wamar Products Inc. in Caledonia, Mich., said an unemployment rate of about 3 percent in western Michigan has forced him to increase wages for press operators by 30-40 percent.
David Tyler, U.S. operations manager for Future Executive Engineering Personnel Ltd. in Williamsville, N.Y., attributes much of the labor shortage in the upper Midwest to the booming automotive industry.
``The automotive and related industries can generally pay better'' than the average custom molder, Tyler said.
For personnel search firms, it is also a good news/bad news situation. In a tight market, more companies seek help finding employees at all levels, not just executive or managerial.
Tyler said new client job orders have risen by 50 percent over this time last year.
``Orders for entry-level machine operators increased tenfold'' in 1994, he said.
He also is seeing an increase in demand for processing technicians and set-up people.
However, all the search firms interviewed said a lack of qualified applicants makes filling positions extremely difficult.
Tyler noted that not only has the number of applicants gone down, but the quality has decreased.
``Most of the really good people are already working,'' he said. ``And the really qualified candidates get taken quickly.''
Tom Felts, president of Fortune Personnel Consultants' office in Columbia, S.C., said that fact should increase firms' urgency in pursuing candidates.
``It's really an employee's market out there right now, so a company can't afford to window shop,'' Felts said. ``The good people have at least two to three offers open to them immediately, which is significantly higher than in the past.''
A tight market also means many companies are willing to pay higher wages and salaries for top-notch people, said Ken Eaton of Eaton & Associates in Lake Forest, Calif.
``The gap between management salaries and wages for qualified technical people is closing'' as processors vie for the best employees to fill jobs such as processing engineering technicians, he said. ``Technical personnel rates are way up, almost to management levels.''
Felts agreed: ``Compensation becomes a key issue in this market environment and most companies are having to pay more competitive salaries just to attract the people they want.''