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SURVEY SAYS: Developing, training employees is top challenge; ACA has not led to decrease in health insurance coverage

dawsonLivingston County employers and employees are more focused on career path and professional development than ever before, as evidenced by the results of the 2014 Livingston County Compensation & Benefits Survey, in which employers listed developing and training employees as their top challenge, followed by recruiting.

The survey was coordinated by EctoHR in conjunction with the Howell Area Chamber of Commerce Foundation. The biennial survey collects information from Livingston County employers that isn’t available anywhere else, and it provides a comprehensive snapshot of the local employment landscape.

A sign of the continuing economic recovery, the jobless rate in Livingston County is still falling steadily, according to data prepared by the Bureau of Labor Market Information and Strategic Initiatives. The bureau is part of the Michigan Department of Technology, Management and Budget, which publishes the official labor statistics for Michigan.

To download the PowerPoint presentation from the meeting, click here.

Despite the falling jobless rate, it remains above the 2008 level. In 2008, Livingston County’s unemployment rate was 6.7 percent; it soared to nearly 12 percent in 2009. The current unemployment rate is 7.6 percent.

The total number of private payroll jobs in Livingston County continues to rise; there’s a 6,000-job difference between the 2009 low of 36,200 jobs, and the 42,500 jobs in 2014. Much of the growth is in retail, manufacturing, professional and business services, and transportation and warehousing.

Sixty-five percent of the respondents added employees in the last 12 months, and there’s been a 65 percent increase in the time it takes to fill a job since 2009.

The total private wages in Livingston County in 2013 totaled over $1.7 billion, with an average wage of $38,650.

Union workers in Livingston County earn 25 percent more per hour than non-union workers, while putting in three more hours a week. And while small businesses paid workers on par with medium-sized firms in 2013, large companies — those with 500 or more workers — paid employees on average over $10 more per hour.

Livingston County’s central location between larger employment areas provides an additional challenge in that many workers travel outside the community for jobs.

“Forty-five percent live and work here,” said Steve Williams of EctoHR. “While 55 percent of the population works outside Livingston County, with an average commute time of 31 minutes.”

That commute creates additional challenges for Livingston County employers, who find themselves competing with businesses from outside the community for workers.

Williams said that increasing entry-level wages are critical at this point. Among the challenges for lower-paid workers in Livingston County is a lack of public transportation, poor walkability and lack of affordable housing.

Participating businesses indicated that rising costs were the most significant benefits-related issue facing their organization in 2014-15.  Nearly 54 percent cited rising costs, followed at nearly 22 percent by the complexity of benefits and employee education.

While the Affordable Care Act has created additional paperwork for employers, it has not led to a decrease in coverage for employees.

“The data doesn’t vary much in Livingston County from that in the Detroit area and nationally,” Williams said.

Benefit changes in 2014 saw health care plans mainly unchanged, with some companies increasing employee premium contributions, employee deductibles, while increasing medical plan options.

Williams predicted there could be changes in the future in providing domestic partner benefits.

Sixty-four companies participated in the survey, a cooperative effort of the Howell Area Chamber of Commerce Foundation and  EctoHR Inc. Sixty-five percent  of the survey respondents were smaller employers, with 1-49 workers; 12 percent had 50-99 employees; and 23 percent had 100+ employees.

“This is a comprehensive look at local employment, and the only published data specific to the Livingston County workforce,” said Kim Esper, membership director for the chamber.

The 2014 survey results are detailed in a comprehensive report, which is free to all companies who participated in the survey, and available for $175 to those that did not. Contact the Howell Area Chamber of Commerce Foundation at 517.546.3920, or email kesper@howell.org.

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