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Monday, June 4, 2018

Keeping Your Valuables

Last Friday we had some delightful economic news. People have jobs in this country! Seemingly, at record levels.

The president could hardly contain his excitement. So he tweeted about it. Why such happiness? The May jobs report showed the economy added roughly 223,000 net new jobs last month. This put the jobless rate around 3.8 percent, an 18-year low.

The biggest job gainers included groups that historically have suffered from high levels of unemployment. This would include younger workers and minority workers—especially African Americans. And better yet, the category of “marginally attached workers” found employment opportunities. These are the part-time workers who want a full-time job and the people who want to work but have given up looking for a job. Thus, they aren't included in the official count of the labor force.

Who is not happy with these numbers? The Trump opposition. Here’s why. The better the employment picture, the more likely voters are to favor incumbents in an election than when those voters are out of work.

One of the surprising “Help Wanted” fields appears to be truck drivers. The Morning Call put up this headline on their website: “America has a massive truck driver shortage. Here's why few want an $80,000 job.” What’s the deal?

As The Morning Call story reports, “About 51,000 more drivers are needed to meet the demand from companies such as Amazon and Walmart that are shipping more goods across the country, according to the American Trucking Associations. The driver shortage is already leading to delayed deliveries and higher prices for goods that Americans buy. The ATA predicts that it's likely to get worse in the coming years.”

That’s the demand. But where is the supply of drivers when you need them? The answers are readily available from truckers who tell you that the lifestyle is rough. You barely see your family. You rarely shower. And like Rodney Dangerfield, you get no respect—or little—from car drivers, police, or major retailers.

This caused me to wonder, what are the most difficult positions to fill in our economy? CBS News published a list for last year titled, “America's 10 toughest jobs to fill in 2017.” Here’s the list, with average salary:

  • Data scientist: $128,240
  • Financial adviser: $89,160
  • General and operations manager: $97,730
  • Home health aide: $21,920
  • Information security analyst: $90,120
  • Medical services manager: $94,500
  • Physical therapist: $84,020
  • Registered nurse: $67,490
  • Software engineer: $100,690
  • Truck driver: $40,260

Note the truck driver pay. The current shortage has jacked up that pay level quite a bit! Not all of them are making $80 grand a year, but companies are definitely recruiting.

CareerCast also reported that “several of the 2017's hardest-to-fill jobs don't require college degrees. But the jobs that require a bachelor's degree tend to pay higher salaries.” As one might expect.

The improving job picture has another important contribution: the hiring and retention of good people. This has even impacted the fast food industry.

A Chick Fil A manager in Sacramento, California, is raising wages for some positions to $17 per hour! Eric Mason, the owner/operator, is offering this pay for his “hospitality professionals.” He says, "What that does for the business is provide consistency, someone that has relationships with our guests. It’s going to be building a long-term culture.”

It’s also a wise move in other ways. It’s proven that raising wages can reduce turnover. When a worker leaves, there are a number of cost factors in replacing that person that come into play.

Jesus of Nazareth often used parables involving business owners or managers. One of the more difficult ones is often called “The Parable of the Shrewd Manager.” You can read it in Luke 16.

The word “shrewd” carries negative connotation to some. It need not. One good definition explains the adjective as “having or showing sharp powers of judgment; astute.”

In a thriving economy, a “shrewd” manager will be diligent to keep the most hard to replace employees. It just makes life easier.

As for me, I’m asking my wife to beef up on her truck driving skills.

That’s The Way WE Work. Click on the link to the right to connect via Facebook.

Let’s Talk with Mark Elfstrand can be heard weekdays from 4-6 PM Central. To listen outside the Chicago area, tune to for live streaming or podcasts, or download the AM1160 app.

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