Lisa Katz| Crain’s Detroit Blog

In late August, the Workforce Intelligence Network released its second-quarter 2015 labor market reports. Among the highlights are an emphasis on record job posting levels, noting higher-than-ever employer need for workers and continuous but slowly increasing employment levels.

This is all good news for the Southeast Michigan economy. Quarters two and three are often the peak employment months because of tourism and agriculture, so it is no surprise that employment once again has ticked up. However, it is a surprise that it has not increased more rapidly.

For the past four years, since the recession “ended” and employment began to grow again, the labor force has remained stagnant. Familiar business-cycle ups and downs still exist, but overall growth is absent. On the other hand, online job postings have reached their highest levels, with 122,261 online job ads posted during Q2 2015 alone.

With job postings so high, traditional theory would predict a labor force expansion as more workers are enticed by available jobs. This has not been the case in Southeast Michigan. Instead, employment, while still growing, is increasing at the slow rate of 1 percent per quarter, hardly enough to fill all of the open jobs.

With continued demand from employers, the region can only hope that more workers join, or rejoin, the labor force ranks to provide a greater pool for employers to choose from. With enough available workers, employment could likely grow faster making the entire region better off.

In addition to labor market trends, the WIN reports highlight the top in-demand jobs of the quarter. In general, the top-posted jobs remain the same all year long. Software developers have topped the charts for several years as have registered nurses, truck drivers and sales workers. All of these jobs are either growing rapidly (software developers and truck drivers) or experiencing such great turnover that employers need to keep postings open at all times (nurses and retail workers).

During Q2 2015, the most notable shift in the rankings occurred in postings related to sales. Sales representatives —wholesale and manufacturing — rose to the fourth most in-demand occupation with 2,868 postings, up 12 percent from 2,560 and No. 5 in the rankings in Q1 2015. This sales occupation traditionally has ranked just behind retail salespeople. The shift is welcome and likely indicates a greater need for more experienced technical sales workers.

The second quarter also marked a shift in the share of job postings for traditionally growing occupations in the region. For several years, the majority of job ads in the region have been for workers related to one of a few occupation groups: advanced manufacturing (broken down by engineering/design occupations and skilled trades/technician occupations), health care, information technology, and retail and hospitality. In the past, more than half of online job ads in Southeast Michigan fell into one these categories, but second-quarter 2015 veered from this trend with only 45 percent of postings in these categories. Other growing occupation areas include:

  • heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers
  • maintenance and repair workers
  • managers
  • business intelligence analysts
  • administrative assistants

Shifting job demand is a positive sign. More managers, administrative workers and others means that businesses are able to invest more in their back office workforce. A continued demand for truck drivers (coupled with a strong purchasing manager’s index) means more manufacturing and more spinoff jobs. Hopefully economic theory plays out and more workers join the ranks of Southeast Michigan labor force come fall.

Note: WIN’s quarterly reports are completed for each of the counties within Southeast Michigan and the region as a whole. To access the reports please see the WIN website.

This blog was compiled with research and content from Colby Spencer Cesaro, research director for the Workforce Intelligence Network.

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