NorthBridge Blog

Pat DuganIf it seems to you like there are more cranes dotting the skyline, more condos and apartment complexes under development than you can keep track of, you’re absolutely right. There’s a nation-leading construction boom underway across Chicago and its surrounding suburbs that represents a powerful turnaround. Building Boom

In December alone, according to figures from research firm Dodge Data & Analytics, Chicagoland saw more than $452 million in total residential construction spending. Taken year-to-date, the total was $7.230 billion, a 46% jump that was the best VTD growth of any metro area in the U.S.A.
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Pat DuganThe U.S. saw surprising job growth in July, with temporary jobs making up a strong part of that rise, according to seasonally-adjusted figures released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

17,000 temporary positions were added to the rolls in July versus June. That’s part of a year-over-year growth rate of 1.9%, with a total number of temp jobs reaching 2.93 million, the highest since December.

July Job Growth 2016There’s another number worth noting, the temporary penetration rate, the number of temp jobs as a percentage of total employment. That rose to 2.03% in July.

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Pat DuganIf there’s ever a good argument for a state having a diversified economy, it’s shown by the ups and downs of segments like the energy sector, which is riding a downslope on the roller-coaster ride of oil and gas prices.

According to a report by outplacement specialist Challenger, Gray & Christmas, the U.S. energy sector had 17,725 job cuts in July. That’s a 796% increase from the previous month, and the biggest round of cuts since April, when 18,759 jobs were slashed.

Those cuts resonate across other sectors, too, of course.
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pat_small2015 was a frustrating year for anyone interested in making headway in jobs growth in Illinois. It wasn’t a disastrous year, but it wasn’t the kind of rebound that’s needed to fuel future prosperity.

In fact, the state lost a net 3,000 jobs in 2015, which isn’t anywhere near the dropoffs of the recent recession, but it wasn’t encouraging – and steep losses in manufacturing, to the tune of 14,000 jobs over the course of the year, show how fragile a recovery can be, especially when it’s impacted by factors well outside the state line.

The main culprit? Exports have slowed as China and Europe’s economies have struggled. That’s affected manufacturing jobs, and Illinois has been one of the states to suffer.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Illinois lost an alarming 16,300 payroll jobs in December alone, which rolled back much of the progress the state made over the rest of the year.

Despite being the most populous state in the region, Illinois is still having a tough time bouncing back, even when there’s a relatively strong national economy, and even markets like Detroit are making gains.

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In January, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics announced that payroll employment grew by 292,000 in December, while unemployment held steady at 5 percent (the Chicago and Illinois jobs scene is stumbling in a different direction, unfortunately). But what are the broader trends you’ve got to keep an eye on if you’re a recruitment manager?

First off, finding and hiring qualified employees is always a challenge, and in a market where there’s a lot of competing demand for their services, the challenge gets harder, especially when unemployment rates decline or stay put at a relatively low level.

Getting effective, expert workers through the door is critical to a firm’s success, especially in an era where agility and the flexibility to adapt to changing conditions are increasingly central to survival, let alone to becoming a segment leader.
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pat_smallIt’s a mixed bag: for temp agencies like North Bridge, there can be an upside to bad job news, as employers strapped for talent in an economy where they can’t justify full-time hires will turn to temporary staffing, but we’d still rather see the economy at full steam for everyone.

But the federal government gave job analysts an unfortunate surprise recently, as they reported that September posted a surprisingly small 142,000 increase in U.S. employment. The report from the Labor Department was well short of the 203,000 – 206,000 increase forecast by economists.
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pat_smallHere’s a surprising run of statistics that, for some people, show Chicago in an unexpected light: according to a recent report compiled by commercial real estate firm CBRE, Chicago was one of the fastest-growing cities in the U.S. when it came to generating tech jobs as the country emerged from the recession.

Between 2010 and 2013, the number of tech jobs here rose an impressive 25.8 percent. That’s significant not just because they’re good jobs in a region that’s been written off by doomsayers as being inescapably trapped in its “Rust Belt” heritage, but because that rate of growth actually put Chicago in the top three cities in America – actually ahead of New York, L.A. and Atlanta.  Chicago has 133,170 jobs in tech fields, according to CBRE, or about 3.5 percent of all jobs.
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pat_smallThe New York Times is just the latest media outlet to catch on to the seismic shift in the jobs economy, as they note there are indications that the use of temporaries may remain a permanent facet of business staffing:

This year, 26.2 percent of all jobs added by private sector employers were temporary positions. In the comparable period after the recession of the early 1990s, only 10.9 percent of the private sector jobs added were temporary, and after the downturn earlier this decade, just 7.1 percent were temporary.

The long-term picture may point toward a shift toward permanent staffing, as in any traditional economy.   Or it may not — as businesses begin to appreciate the benefits and gains they can realize through temporary staffing, and inculcate those more permanently into their staffing regimes.

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pat_smallIt’s heartening to see that older workers, possessing a wealth of experience and training that just aren’t available with younger personnel, are finding opportunities, according to this Tribune article.

“There’s no substitute for experience” always holds true, and that’s especially true in the businesses highlighted in the article, which happen to be manufacturing-oriented.  That’s where highly-specialized skills and knowledge can be at a real premium, and where’s it’s particularly important to pass craft skills down from one generation to the next.

It may seem more economical to hire younger workers, if you’re judging strictly on the basis of an hourly wage — but employers also need to figure in the kinds of efficiencies and insight that more experienced workers provide, which can more than make up any wage differential.

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pat_smallAccording to the Illinois Department of Employment Security, unemployment numbers declined by 1.5% during October in the metro area defined by Chicago, Joliet and Naperville, to an overall level of 9.7%.  It was the second month that measured unemployment had declined.  Among all areas in the state, Peoria may have performed the best, with saw a decline of 2.3%, though its overall level stands at 8.9%, with the state overall at a 9.2% figure.

It’s an improvement over the 10.9% figure posted a year previous for October, which would translate into about 60,000 more jobs having been added to the area economy over that time.

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pat_smallIn September, the unemployment rate in Chicago dropped to 9.4 percent, according to the Illinois Department of Employment Security.   Jobless rates dropped in all reporting areas across the state, in fact.  That’s encouraging, but the overall scene has been a very mixed bag for the year, of course — the Chicago area has lost over 51,000 jobs over the past year.

Hopefully, good news like this example will continue as the recovery picks up steam!

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pat_smallDepending on which pundit you interview, there are different takes on how the temporary employment market will trend in months and years to come.  Some preach that there’s been a permanent and profound change in the way employers stock their workforces – that temporaries will occupy a larger share of that workforce, moving forward, than ever before.

Others make the case that there’s nothing more valuable to your company than a permanent employee who’s knowledgeable and loyal when it comes to your business.

New figures indicate that the temp job segment is on the rise.  And while that usually augurs improvement across the board for permanent hiring, there’s been a long, slow delay during this climb out of recession.  So the very difficulty of this jobs recovery may be clouding any ability to predict the role of temporary hiring in the future, though many companies can certainly testify to its benefits.

As the CNN story mentions,

…There’s still something to be said for hiring permanent workers, according to T.C. Robillard, a senior research analyst for Signal Hill Capital who covers large staffing firms. He thinks employers will realize that as soon as the economy picks up.

“Permanent employees that know your business and fit well are one of your assets,” he said. “I don’t think we’re going to redefine the employee mix even once companies feel more confident that the recovery is on solid ground.”

But until that time, temporary and contingent employees remain the best possible solution for companies that need to keep doing business while staying pragmatic about the future!

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