Staff Editorial

Laborshed studies will benefit employers, workers alike

Cars travel through the curve on Interstate 380, looking south from downtown Cedar Rapids on Thursday, May 17, 2018. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
Cars travel through the curve on Interstate 380, looking south from downtown Cedar Rapids on Thursday, May 17, 2018. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

Iowans frequently hear about our state’s shortage of skilled workers, but so far that information has been more anecdotal than empirical.

Business owners, educators and politicians tell us there are hundreds or thousands of good jobs which need to be filled, yet there is little publicly available data about where and what those jobs are, or about the specific shortfalls of our local workforces.

A new project by the Iowa Economic Development Authority and Iowa Workforce Development could fill that knowledge gap. The offices announced this month they plan to conduct biennial laborshed studies for each of Iowa’s 99 counties.

Laborshed studies provide detailed information about a local community’s workforce, including workers’ education levels, current wages and their interest in seeking new jobs.

That data could prove invaluable to employers looking to start or grow their operations in Iowa, and to the local government officials tasked with pitching their communities to those employers.

Iowa’s 2016 statewide laborshed report gives a glimpse of the kinds of information those leaders might expect from the countywide studies.

• Median wages across the state ranged from $11 per hour in the retail industry to $22 per hour among government employees.

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• More than a quarter of employed Iowans said they are “very likely” or “somewhat likely” to change jobs if presented with the right opportunity.

• The largest group of unemployed Iowans, 28 percent, said they are most likely to pursue jobs in production and manufacturing.

• About 5 percent of Iowans are considered underemployed, meaning they have inadequate wages, positions mismatched to their skills or they work too few hours.

All of that data is calculated on a statewide basis, and figures like vary significantly from one corner of the state to another. Right now, Iowa Workforce Development analysts can provide more detailed local figures upon request, but the forthcoming county-by-county reports will put all that information on the record for everyone to access.

State leaders are touting the project as a service to employers, and the benefits there should be obvious. Businesses will have free access to valuable data needed to guide their expansion and hiring processes.

But we also hope the local laborshed studies will be a boon for workers. When employers are equipped with knowledge about the local workforce, they will be in a better position to compete for workers through better wages and benefits.

• Comments: (319) 398-8262; editorial@thegazette.com

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