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February Readers Respond

Readers report that business is improving. New hiring increases are impeded by health care costs and a shortage of skilled labor.

I fired off a “Great To Be Back” letter on February 3, and asked, “…what have you been seeing in your part of the world?”

Excellent answers flowed in, many on the same day.

Here’s a selection of readers’ observations. I’ve edited some for clarity, and I’ve removed details from all, just to keep everybody safe.

In your own words, then, here’s what’s happening in the real world…

FINANCIAL SERVICES: HEALTH CARE HURTS HIRING

My grass roots snapshot indicates a genuine recovery, albeit slow.

I work (in financial services) mostly with mom-and-pop small businesses. The overriding hot issue in my practice is Health Insurance.

Things are improving, so those businesses that did not have Group Health Insurance (GHI) feel confident enough to start looking at it. That’s great.

Not so great… companies that already do have GHI have had their rates raised by as much as 33%. Also not so great is the sticker shock from the new numbers.

Interestingly, and applicable to your industry, clients are proceeding with GHI, despite the costs, in lieu of adding another employee. So it would appear that there is a sense of optimism sufficient to warrant some additional expenditures, and health care is a higher priority than a new hire.

Granted, it seems only logical that a business owner would take care of his basic requirements before bringing on additional help.

METAL MFG: RECORD YEAR, AND A SKILLS SHORTAGE

Our business … has been very good to us for the last 18 months. We could have a record year. Our Automotive market is (significantly) past goal, with Medical and Aerospace much of the same.

We have been steady hiring technical help for the last year, but not without a struggle. Skilled people are hard to find, and it appears that it will only get worse, according to the local Tech Schools.

Most of our International business that was in China is moving back to the U.S. to service the North American market (very good news). We still have a sales presence in Asia, but we are committed to being competitive at home. We (focus on) improved efficiencies, and lean manufacturing to keep our U.S. customers from going off-shore.

We have a lot of success stories… We’re currently opening (an expansion.)

Money is great. I’ve been receiving monthly bonuses for 18 months now. Not bad for a battered economy. We have our challenges ahead of us, but hard work and attitude will keep us strong.

INDUSTRIAL LUBRICANTS: PRICING POWER.

Business is going strong and prices on oils/chemicals are going up….surprise! I have spent the last two days sending out increase letters which only echo the rest of our industry.

As far as employment goes, I am seeing some manufacturers hiring both hourly and salary positions now which is a good sign.

WATER TREATMENT: STRONG OVERSEAS

Things keep rolling in the water treatment arena.

Posted in Business Climate, China, Employment Scene, Health Care, Pick, Z Editor's Notes.


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