A consultant last week released a report on Houston’s labor force that leaders hope will lead to new job opportunities locally and help existing employers attract workers.
Rob O’Brian of O’Brian and Associates LLC, Joplin, presented the report to the Houston City Council after completing survey work locally and visited with employers earlier this year. O’Brian’s report comes just ahead of another that will address housing needs in the community.
A former head of Joplin’s chamber of commerce, O’Brian said Houston as the county seat and a hub for commerce not only employs local residents, but workers from across the county. With a work force of 2,537 within the Houston zip code, about 1,730 are local residents. In this region, most of the top job opportunities are communities along the I-44 corridor.
A report also looks at the largest employment sectors in the community. They are: government (718), retail trade (444), manufacturing (262), accommodation and food (228) and healthcare and social (190). Of the 27 employers mentioned in surveys, most skewed to smaller employers.
Rob Harrington, economic development director for the City of Houston, said the report is one of several pieces geared toward landing new jobs locally and helping existing employers maintain their workforce and find markets for additional workers. “It’s about creating a foundation for the future,” he said.
O’Brian said his report shows that pay is the key driver for hiring workers, it also gives some suggests to help the local economy:
•Providing information that will help pinpoint where opportunities exist to hire employees.
•Highlighting the need to train people. He noted the development of the Piney River Technical Center, which will provide additional education opportunities, is encouraging, as well as Drury University’s presence here.
•The need for employers to interact at local school districts and explain the opportunities that are available here to students, who might be inclined to leave their hometown.
Harrington said the city also will continue to focus on programs that encourage residents to continue to live here and draw new ones: Parks, housing, streets, education and training, as well as studying services, such as faster internet. A new municipal swimming pool is set for construction and ground will break in 2020 for a new high school gymnasium and related work at the Houston School District.
O’Brian told the council that job creation is a tricky, two-edge sword: Paying competitive wages to keep a workforce, but being able to offer wages that also are attractive to prospective employers.
Key points from a recently released labor study released last week by a consultant hired by the City of Houston:
•Employers are generally happy with the quality of the workforce. (3.9 on a 5-point scale)
•Employers are more neutral on the availability of the workforce and their skills. (2.9)
•Houston employers noted “better pay” and to a lesser extent, “better benefits” as key reasons people leave for a new job.
•Employers said better skills training would be a benefit. More basic employment skills also are needed, such as importance of attendance and communication with their bosses.
•Wages in Houston are competitive in relation to the region.
•Very competitive wages are 6 to 20 percent lower than surrounding counties, depending on the business sector or county.
•Those ages 15 to 69 are generally satisfied with the job (3.8). About 60 percent of those currently employed (full and part time) are actively seeking or could be interested in new job opportunities.
•About 8 percent of the population not currently employed — such as those retired or homemakers — would consider coming back into the labor force; evenly split between those wanting full-time or part-time employment.
•At lower wage levels, current and potential employees indicate in the county they are unlikely to drive more than 20 minutes; many said 10 minutes.
•A period of 20 to 40 minutes is the commute time for workforce availability. Local employers are competing with communities where firms pay higher wages.