by Christina Studebaker, DCEDC Workforce-Development Project Manager
Historically low unemployment during the past few years has presented tremendous challenges for employers across the country to attract and retain a workforce, and local conditions are notable. According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Wisconsin’s average monthly unemployment rate of 2.94 percent ranked as the eighth lowest among the 50 states in 2018. Door County’s unemployment rate in December 2018 was 3.9 percent, and during the summer months in 2017 and 2018, it dipped as low as 2.5 percent.
Businesses across the state and country are fighting to get and keep the workforce they need. Incentives to prospective and current employees include competitive wages and benefits, signing bonuses, employer-paid training, tuition reimbursement, flexible schedules, student-loan debt payment, transportation subsidies and housing.
In spite of the incentives that local employers offer, hundreds of positions in Door County remain unfilled in industries including manufacturing, construction, health care and hospitality (e.g., food and beverage, tourism and lodging).
In addition to low unemployment rates, Door County has a declining population size and aging population. Since 2010, the county’s population has decreased almost 2 percent. During that same period, the percentage of residents 65 years old or older increased from 21 percent to 27 percent.
The median age of Door County (i.e., the age that 50 percent of the population falls above and 50 percent falls below) is 52.3. Not only is that more than 14 years higher than the national median age, but Door County’s median age is increasing at a rate four times faster than the national median.
Door County employers must look outside the county – and even outside the state – to grow their workforce. In addition, growing the younger workforce is critical to the county’s economic vitality and sustainability. DCEDC is working to grow the workforce through initiatives that include:
• Identifying and helping employers connect with workforce sources such as military personnel transitioning out of active service (e.g., through the Mission Wisconsin/Hiring Our Heroes program), individuals who have second homes in Door County and are interested in moving to the area full time, displaced workers in other Wisconsin counties and other states, and college students or graduates looking for internships and good jobs.
• Conducting surveys to assess the status of the workforce in certain industries (e.g., caregiving, hospitality, manufacturing and construction) and identify factors that may help retain workers who already live here.
• Conducting surveys or other custom-tailored research for individual employers.
• Organizing industry-focused job fairs outside of Door County.
• Applying for grants to help support other initiatives.
Contact me at [email protected] or 920.743.3113, extension 205, to talk more about specific issues or possible initiatives.