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North Bay Business Journal

Monday, August 26, 2013, 6:35 am

Study finds more of Napa’s workforce comes from outside county

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    Rob Eyler

    Napa County increasingly draws its workforce from outside of the county, particularly in the wine and hospitality industries, according to a new study.

    The study, by Sonoma State University Professor of Economics, and Frank Howard Allen Research Scholar Dr. Robert Eyler, said Napa County’s most prominent industries also face several unique challenges, and that the supply and demand for its labor force are increasingly interconnected.

    “The number of Napa residents leaving Napa to work is rising, which implies a need to import more workers into Napa,” according to the study, The Labor Market in Napa County: Opportunities and Challenges for the Wine Industry. The findings of the study will be presented by Dr. Eyler, also president of Economic Forensics and Analytics and a Frank Howard Allen Research Scholar, at the North Bay Business Journal’s Impact Napa Conference.

    The wine industry possesses several unique attributes that affect both the supply and demand of its labor, including a workforce that is perhaps more willing to accept lower wages in exchange for intangible benefits of the wine industry, such as events, wine allocations, meals and a low-stress lifestyle, according to the study.

    Additionally, hospitality is playing an increasingly important role, and as a result, there is greater mobility for some wine industry workers, particularly in sales and administration, the study said.

    “The interconnections between industries in Napa and how the wine industry (dirt to glass) has a supply chain connection to almost every other business in Napa helps network workers to other possibilities and provides more mobility,” the report states.

    That might be good for workers, but for wine-related businesses, it can present some challenges — more mobility means upward pressure on wages. And more dependence on an aging and imported workforce also may increase total wage packages. Furthermore, coming health care reforms may increase total wage packages when the cost of health insurance is factored in, across all parts of the wine supply chain, according to the report.

    Still another challenge for the Napa wine industry and its labor market is “the unknown regulatory environment from dirt to glass and how changes to come affect who to hire…” the report said.

    Dr. Eyler noted that while all North Bay counties share residents working across the region, Napa is increasingly importing its workforce at a higher clip than neighboring Sonoma and Solano counties.

    “Data suggest that there’s fewer people living in Napa who work in Napa,” Dr. Eyler said, adding that the average age for Napa workers is also increasing.

    For example, from 2002 to 2011, the percentage of Napa residents living and working in Napa dropped from 62.1 percent to 53.1 percent, according to the report. That means almost 4,600 more Napans are now leaving the county for work. In 2002, most commuted to Solano County, but in 2011, Sonoma County was the most common destination the study found. All told, 17 percent of Napa residents — nearly 10,600 in total — work in other Bay Area counties.

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