Some Michigan industries still having hard time finding skilled labor workers

Posted at 6:06 AM, Sep 22, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-22 06:06:14-04

(WXYZ) — Despite still higher than average jobless numbers in Michigan, some industries are having a hard time finding skilled labor.

One metro Detroit business owner is struggling to fill open positions. Yet, if there are still people out of work, why aren’t these jobs getting filled? There are a couple reasons why.

The pandemic has hit blue collars workers especially hard, and it continues to.

But, it’s also having a lasting effect on businesses, which in some cases just can’t meet applicants salary requirements.

And for those collecting unemployment — the fear of risking their health and maybe that of their family in order to return to work — is a tough pill to swallow.

“We’ve been advertising what we call pack leaders which is an hourly position at both of our locations in Ferndale and Detroit for about the past month," said owner of Canine to Five Liz Blondy.

The dog grooming and boarding business owner in metro Detroit, says she’s getting applicants, only none that seem willing to take the job at it’s current pay rate.

“We have a very clear system in place to get people raises, but we are finding that people are looking to be brought in at $15 an hour," said Blondy.

Canine to Five did receive federal PPP and some local grants to help them during the pandemic. But overall, business is still down 30 percent year to date. The average hourly rate is $11.50, plus benefits for full time workers, which she’s looking to hire but can’t seem to.

Michigan’s current minimum wage is $9.65 an hour.

Executive Director at Wayne State’s Office of Business Innovation Matthew Roling, says this is happening in retail, landscaping, restaurants and the construction industry too.

While the more robost $600 in federal unemployment expired this summer, Michigan is participating in a program that provides an extra $300 on top of state unemployment.

“You’re getting paid about $600 a week to stay home. And that works out to about 15 dollars per hour," said Rolling. “It’s still better for you and your family to just stay at home and collect unemployment.”

And it’s not that workers aren’t interested in work — it’s that for some the risks associated with taking on a new job may outweigh the financial benefits right now.

Blondy says another challenge is finding people willing to work full time hours.

“Some people don’t feel comfortable leaving the house still. Don’t feel comfortable being in indoor spaces," she said.

“The unemployment rate skyrocketed from 3.6 percent in march to over 24 percent in April," said Roling. "It’s come all the way back down to 8 percent in August which gives us a really good sign that Michigan’s economy is coming back to life.”

Despite that measured progress, Roling says this particular problem impacting jobs in $10 to $15 range isn’t likely to go away any time soon.

“Employers have had their profits and sales hammered the last three months so they don’t really have a lot of extra money to pay people more than they typically have," Roling said. "And on the other side of the table, if you’re an employee you may be facing child case issues or you might still be rightfully so really nervous about catching the coronavirus.”

One good thing for Canine to Five is that despite the pandemic, the grooming business was steady. People still wanted to come in and get their dog's hair cut.

But pre-pandemic, she had between her two locations about 98 team members. Now it’s closer to 50.

Employees there do spend a lot of time outside though with the dogs, so that’s something she hopes might sway people on the fence due to health concerns.