Local job market rebounding

ALPENA – In the wake of a positive national jobs report, one Alpena staffing agency is facing a problem: not enough skilled workers to fill positions..

Pamela Richardson, Star Staffing account executive, said she still has people to fill openings, but she has to work twice as hard to find them. In many cases, she’s either “stealing” them from other local businesses, or luring them in from downstate.

In one recent example, Richardson was trying to help a local limestone quarry find an intern. The position pays $15 an hour, and only requires that applicants have completed a cement technology course at Alpena Community College. When she contacted two professors who teach the class, they both replied, saying they had no one available at the time.

Richardson believes this single case is emblematic of a larger trend: a sour economy forced many skilled workers to leave the area over the past few years, and something needs to be done to bring them back, she said. She also had trouble finding qualified millwrights, which were recently in high demand by three local businesses. Even office skills, like how to use QuickBooks, are somewhat hard to come by.

“I think, for a couple of years, we didn’t have any good opportunities,” she said.

While layoffs and a contracting job market might have scared off skilled workers in the past, now is the time to consider moving back into the area, Richardson said. She’s had to fight the misconception that the Alpena area has no jobs, and in the process sell the community to prospective residents.

“I just don’t think people realize we have as much to offer as we do,” she said.

In May, 175,000 nonfarm jobs were added nationwide, according to United States Department of Labor statistics. The professional and business services sector was the main driver, with 57,000 jobs added during the month. Despite this, the unemployment rate ticked up one-tenth of a percent to 7.6 percent. The actual number of unemployed people, including the long-term unemployed, mostly held steady.

In a tweet, Gov. Rick Snyder said Friday the state has more than 46,000 job openings. A quick search on MITalent.org for job openings within a 50-mile radius of Alpena code turned up 154 results. A few examples are fast food, truck driving, nursing, sales associates and management. Some are unique to the area, like an opening for a biochemical operator at the Alpena Prototype Biorefinery.

Star Staffing does more than just finding quick replacements for those on maternity leave or vacation, Richardson said. Like every staffing agency, they do full-time hiring for companies that want help weeding out the numerous applicants. In the course of a week, Star Staffing found jobs for 12 people, five of whom were placed in permanent positions.

This was a good week for Star Staffing, which sees its busiest months in the summer, Richardson said. High demand for landscapers, construction workers and traffic flaggers for road work projects keeps her office busy.

“Fifty percent of our business comes in June, July and August, so it’s a tough time,” she said. “It’s also a lot of fun.”

Jordan Travis can be reached via email at jtravis@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 358-5688. Follow Jordan on Twitter @jt_alpenanews. Read his blog, A Snowball’s Chance, at www.thealpenanews.com.