NORTH BAY – Despite a persistently high unemployment rate on both a national and local level, many employers are having a difficult time finding top-tier talent and filling an increasing amount of positions, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Nationally, the unemployment rate stands at 9.2 percent. In Sonoma County, the latest figure was at 10.1 percent – and hasn’t dropped below 9 percent in well over a year.
Nevertheless, certain positions and top-level talent remain difficult for some employers to track down, and the trend is transpiring locally, according to Robert Half International, which has a Santa Rosa branch.
“As executives become more optimistic about their growth prospects, their companies need to augment their teams,” said Erica Huggins, branch manager for Robert Half Santa Rosa.
Some areas that are proving difficult to find talent in – or that are in higher demand and fared better than other areas – include: senior accountants, staff accountants, HR assistance, customer service and inside sales, and medical billing, Ms. Huggins said. The reason is relatively simple.
“The first people they’re bringing back are in those roles, and those roles were some of the last to be let go,” Ms. Huggins said.
The aforementioned fields, as well as financial analysts, had some of the lowest unemployment rates for the second quarter of 2011, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Unemployment was at 1.5 percent for HR assistants, 2.8 percent for HR managers, 3.5 percent for accountants and auditors, 3.8 percent for financial analysts and 4.3 percent for medical records and health information technicians.
Unlike other industries, health care organizations across the North Bay didn’t see as large of a drop off in workers, Ms. Huggins said. The increased need for medical billing and IT help is the result of an industry is flux, as it adapts to federal health care reform.
“As the law changes, those positions are going to be in demand,” Ms. Huggins said.
The national trends are occurring locally, she added.
“It’s definitely playing out in the North Bay,” Ms. Huggins said. “That’s why we see a demand for those roles locally, because that talent is working right now.
Nicole Smartt, vice president of Star Staffing, said her company was seeing a similar trend, particularly in technology and engineering. Star has offices in Petaluma, Healdsburg, Sonoma Napa, Fairfield and Ukiah.
“I have seen a significant growth in information technology, customer service and sales positions,” she said, adding that she’s seen research which shows 40 percent of IT leaders expecting to temp headcount in the third quarter of this year. Other areas that have seen an uptick include manufacturing and wineries, Ms. Smartt said.
Ms. Huggins said a similar trend was occurring for those with college degrees – only 4.4 percent of college graduates are unemployed, according to the BLS.
“Professional services and business services, they’re seeing the rebound quicker,” Ms. Huggins said. She added that leisure and hospitality has also seen increase in needed labor, particularly for network and computer administrators and social media experts.
“We’ve even seen growth in the construction industry,” Ms. Huggins said. “It’s moving slower, but it’s definitely moving.”
Certain industries – and by proxy certain positions – may be on the rise, but the overall jobs landscape remains tepid, Ms. Smartt said, particularly for smaller businesses.
“I think small to mid-size companies are still waiting to see how the market will unfold before committing to fully expanded staffs,” she said. “Small business hiring in the coming months is expected to be better than 2010, caution continues to steer the pace of job creation post-recession.”
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