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Worker shortages hurting manufacturing growth, profits, Minnesota survey says

Dee Depass, Star Tribune (Minneapolis) on

Published in Business News

Two weeks ago, the state reported that fourth quarter job vacancies increased 20% to 137,000 open positions at the end of 2018, which translates to 4.9 openings for every 100 jobs, said Steve Grove, commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED). Manufacturers had an 8% job vacancy rate.

The results of the annual Enterprise Minnesota study will be shared in a series of regional meetings across the state, the first of which was Tuesday.

Manufacturing managers told the group their companies are trying to boost productivity to counteract the shortage by investing in more automated equipment and by improving factory processes.

"Of concern, however, is little investment by companies to provide leadership training for employees. Yet notably, respondents said that maximizing productivity is second only to finding new customers as an important driver of future growth," the report said.

Grove also noted that companies, with help from the state, need to invest in training and lower employment barriers.

More than 80% of surveyed companies with annual revenue of more than $5 million reported problems stemming from severe labor woes. Separately, many said they are concerned about the growing cost of providing health care for workers, an issue that has consistently risen for the last 11 years of Enterprise Minnesota's survey.

The statewide survey was conducted in March via phone surveys with 500 manufacturing executives by the pollster group Meeting Street Research. Separately, findings were also compiled via interviews that took place with the help of 13 separate focus groups led by Enterprise Minnesota.

The annual project was partly funded by Bremmer Bank, Granite Equity Partners, Gray Plant Mooty, King Solutions and DEED.

 

Tuesday's findings generally agree with local and national findings recently reported by the state of Minnesota, Creighton University and the Institute for Supply Management.

Creighton's manufacturing employment index for the nine-state mid-America region dropped to a "tepid" 51.1 in April from March's "solid" 56.6, said Ernie Goss, director of Creighton's Economics Forecasting Group.

"The regional economy continues to expand at a positive pace," Goss said. "However, as in recent months, finding and hiring qualified workers remained the chief threat to manufacturing economy for the region. ... Of surveyed factory managers, approximately 44.7% identified labor

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