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Good employees hard to find

A strong economy producing a record low unemployment rate in El Dorado County has given job hunters and employees the upper hand in the labor market.

Unemployment rates in the Sacramento Metropolitan Statistical Area, which includes Sacramento, Placer and El Dorado counties, fell from 4.2 percent in November 1998 to 3.5 percent in November 1999, leaving only a small pool of the workforce unemployed.

The low rate forces employers to be more competitive in recruiting workers, said Mike Henriques, field manager for the California Employment Development Department.



“There’s been a certain amount of piracy going on where employers are looking at their competitors and stealing their employees,” Henriques said. “Certainly employees are cognizant of the tighter labor market in terms of negotiating the terms and conditions of their employment. They’re in a better bargaining position than they’ve ever been.”

Henriques said industries looking for skilled labor have been hit the hardest.



“Skilled trades – carpenters, electricians and plumbers – are in very high demand,” he said. “There’s a (labor) shortage.”

Meek’s the Builder’s Choice experienced the sparse work force firsthand.

A lack of employees caused the South Lake Tahoe store to close on Sundays – a normal business day for retail outlets – between July and November.

Retail manager Marcel Mattingly said the problem wasn’t a lack of applicants.

“You want people who know the lumber or the hardware line of the business. We advertised in the newspaper and got a lot of applicants but none with the experience we were looking for,” he said. “We were hunting for experienced workers.”

Following a nationwide trend, Barton Memorial Hospital is experiencing an annual turnover rate of about 15 percent. Some skilled trades that are high in demand, such as pharmacists and ultrasound technicians, have become more difficult to fill.

“It seems like in the health-care industry, there are new positions that become the hot ticket,” said Steve Englert, Barton’s human resource director. “A few years ago it was physical, occupational and speech therapists.”

In times of slim pickings, Lanny Langston, of the Golden Sierra Job Training Agency, said employers must look to the less-experienced to get the job done.

“When you have a low unemployment rate you’ve tapped a lot of the trained work force,” he said. “But there are still a lot of the untrained looking for work and our goal is to get these people ready for work.”

Operating under the Workforce Investment Act, effective July 1, Golden Sierra will help introduce the segment of unskilled employees to the working world by providing federal and state funding for job training services.

Employers play a role in making the program work.

“We place someone in the job who meets the minimum requirements. The employer trains them and is reimbursed for half of the training wages for six months,” Langston said. “We also have seminars and workshops that we conduct for businesses that need to get their employees up to a certain skill level.”

Cal Jobs, an Internet job placement service operated by the EDD, has 1,572 job openings posted in the South Shore area, up 200 listings from the same time last year. Countywide listings are up more than 500 since last year to 3,737 available positions.

Cal Jobs lists available positions by county, region or statewide. Posting and viewing the positions are free. The Web site can be browsed at http://www.caljobs.ca.gov.

Top 10 occupations with the greatest growth potential between 1995 and 2002 in El Dorado County

1 Retail salesperson

2 Top executives

3 Cashiers

4 General office clerks

5 Secretaries

6 Wait staff

7 Registered nurses

8 Electrical engineering technicians

9 Carpenters

10 Secondary school teachers

Top 10 occupations with the fastest growth potential between 1995 and 2002 in El Dorado County

1 Data processing equipment repairers

2 Computer systems analysts

3 Computer engineers

4 Math and natural sciences engineers

5 Grinding and polishing workers

6 Electronic engineering technicians

7 Computer programmers

8 Stone mason helpers

9 Mechanical engineers

10 Planning clerks

Source: California Employment Development Department


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