A labor shortage in Pierce County?

According to a blog post on the Business Examiner website (which bills itself as “The South Sound Business Information Resource”), Pierce County businesses are having a helluva time finding qualified employees:

About 70 percent of businesses responding to a Workforce Central survey said they find it necessary to seek talent outside the county to fill job openings. And 47 percent of respondents said they find it necessary to look outside the county for qualified workers most or all of the time.

WorkForce Central surveyed 130 Pierce County employers from across industries in November and identified the following concerns:

  • 52.5 percent have difficulty finding a sufficient supply of local talent.
  • 45.1 percent say that current employees do not have up-to-date skills and knowledge needed.
  • 28.7 percent are concerned about a talent/brain drain because of an increase in retirements of experienced employees.

Um… really? At the time this survey was taken, Pierce County’s unemployment was hovering around the 8.6 percent rate, about the same level as the state as a whole. And employers still couldn’t find enough qualified local workers to fill the available jobs?

Hard to believe, but if it’s true, you gotta wonder about the wisdom of slashing funding and raising tuition at Washington’s community colleges and four year universities at the same time jobs remain unfilled in the midst of 8.6 percent unemployment. I mean, forget about taxes, there’s no way businesses can afford to stay in Washington state if we don’t have a qualified workforce, right?


  1. 1


    they find it necessary to seek talent outside the county to fill job openings

    Translation: higher H1-B quotas?

    Alternate translation: desperately seeking ex/im bank financing or special tax breaks to relocate to China or India.

  2. 2

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @1 Yeah, one really suspects those businesses have gotten spoiled on paying under-the-table wage rates to non-English speakers who can’t show a green card, and what they’re really lamenting is a dearth of engineers, designers, programmers, and machine operators willing to work for $6 an hour with no benefits.

  3. 3

    Madame Chintoa spews:

    The top required skill that pierce county employers can’t find in the current applicant pool: work ethic; communications skills; problem solving; and time management/productivity.

    What a load of crap!

    And as Goldy said if this were actually true then we better fund education and teach our children to actually think vs being good at testing.

  4. 4

    Chris Stefan spews:

    I believe it. In IT related fields in King County unemployment is less than 4%. It is incredibly hard to find decent people with the right skills to fill open positions.

    With certain fields having very low unemployment it means some have very high unemployment. The skills of the workforce don’t match the skills wanted by employers.

    Cutting community colleges and universities is very penny wise and pound foolish. For most companies offering high wages a skilled local workforce is the largest factor in deciding where to locate.

  5. 5

    SuperSteve spews:

    I wonder how many of the business people who are complaining about a lack of skilled workers also voted against the high-earners’ income tax that would have helped fund education – including job training – in our state community colleges.

  6. 6

    Madame Chintoa spews:

    Chris @4 If they were talking about technical skills they maybe there would be a case to make but the top skill the same employers listed were soft skills, work ethic; communications skills; problem solving; and time management/productivity.

  7. 7

    YellowPup spews:

    Along with @1-2, employers may be unwilling to train new hires. There is an expectation that workers not just to be qualified, but be able to transition directly into their organization, and for relatively modest pay.

  8. 8

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @6 Why don’t we do a survey of employees to find out what skills employers lack? My guess is the list would include competent supervision, ability to run a business, adequate training, and reasonable compensation.

  9. 9

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @7 Yes, employers now expect workers to spend $150,000 on their own education and then work for $15 an hour.

  10. 11

    PierceCoEmp spews:

    What they didn’t say is how many applicants fail drug tests. I’m here to tell you it’s a huge problem in Pierce County. We drug test. We tell applicants we drug test. They take the test and fail. They are either dumb or dumber.

  11. 12

    Rat City Spawn spews:

    @7 – But not too qualified! Wouldn’t want any employees over 30 years old with more relevant experience than the boss.

    @4 – Which local IT firms are hiring American citizens or even legal permanent residents? Interviewing IT candidates seems to be more an exercise in excluding locals, so they can qualify to bring in more H-1Bs.

  12. 13

    Michael spews:


    We tell people they have to pass a background check. We tell them what’s on the background check and what things might cause them to fail. They apply. They fail the background check. It’s it’s bazaar.


    Pierce County has a lot of small companies that make widgets for Boeing, lots of funky high tech plastics, kevlar and the like.

    It would be nice to be able to see what kind of fields the companies that were polled were in.

  13. 15

    Proud to be an Ass spews:

    Oh sure, the dreaded ‘skills mismatch’, a meme that takes Tommy Friedman to orgasm. What they always fail to mention is the pay. Always.

    It’s pretty basic supply and demand stuff here. If you need ‘better’ workers, offer enough money to attract the talent you need.

    The New York Yankees, a fucking money making machine, do it.* Why can’t our local employers? See also Dean Baker on this for some refreshing common sense on this issue.

    *(Insert snide remark about the Mariners here.)

    Happy ‘Effing New Year!

  14. 16

    Proud to be an Ass spews:

    “It’s it’s bazaar (sic).”

    It’s it’s people desperate for a job. Especially one with some kind of decent pay. There is no mystery here.

  15. 17

    Blue John spews:

    So according to employer responding to a temp agency, they are having trouble finding qualified workers?

    “Respondents also said that applicants do not meet the job requirements because they do not have the technical and/or soft skills needed to do the job.
    The top four most cited qualities lacking from today’s work force were: ”

    work ethic (work hard for us); Peirce country employers are having a problem finding people who will work long and hard for a minimal amount of money for no loyalty from the company. Work really hard for no money and the company will fire you the moment you are inconvenient.

    problem solving; (creativity)
    Peirce country employers are having a problem finding people who will come up with creative solutions to work problems for a minimal amount of money for no loyalty from the company. Solve the problems for the company and then you are fired.

    time management/productivity (work hard for us).
    This could be work ethic said another way.

    communications skills;
    In theory, H1-B workers won’t be working for a temp agency, so that’s not it. I don’t know why Peirce country employers would list communication skills.

    Pierce county is 79.3% white while Wa state is 83.8% white. Could this be code that their workforce is too ethnic? I hope not.
    Pierce county has a lesser education level. Bachelor’s degree or higher, pct of persons age 25+, 2000, Pierce county is 20.6% but Wa state is at 27.7%, and King county is 40.0%.


  16. 18

    IT worker spews:

    These same incompetent managers also ignore succession planning. Remember when they used to hire entry level jobs? These are gone forever in IT.

    Another big part of the “brain drain” is existing employees retiring at the first possible opportunity with no notice. Show me a manager with people leaving with no notice and I’ll show you an asshole manager.

    The bullies got used to treating people poorly when the IT job market sucked, now they are shocked people are leaving in droves.

  17. 19

    Blue John spews:

    So in other words, Peirce county employers are having problems finding workers with the complex technical skills they need, that will also work long and hard, have creativity, loyalty, ambition and initiative and be proficiency in interpersonal, oral and written communication…
    for the price and benefits Peirce county employers are willing to pay.

  18. 20

    Blue John spews:

    Did you read this comment from the blog entry?

    … The few positions listed for Pierce County are almost never full time hours and the wages offered are not livable for my household….
    …With probably at least a hundred applicants for each reasonable job, only one person will be the final hire. But to say the local applicants from Pierce County are not qualified is not accurate.

  19. 21

    Blue John spews:

    But as the Great Recession continues, I get that people are going to have to accept a lesser wage.

    A new study of American workers displaced by the recession sheds light on the sacrifices a large number have made to find work. Many, it turns out, had to switch careers and significantly reduce their living standards.
    “In many cases, these people are not very happy,” said Cliff Zukin, professor of public policy and political science at Rutgers University and one of the authors of the study. “They’re the winners who got new jobs, but they’re not really what they want, and not where they want to be.”

    Do you think that’s a factor in productivity or work ethic?

  20. 22

    Politically Incorrect spews:

    I think that Pierce County only comes to mind for most King and Snohomish County residents when they might take a trip to Olympia or Portland: Pierce County is that often-smelly place they must drive through to on their way South on I-5.

  21. 24

    Eric Arrr spews:

    There’s no such thing as a labor shortage. Just a cheap labor shortage.

    (* My boss corrects me: when I surf HA instead of work, I am a labor shortage.)

  22. 25

    Blue John spews:

    Maybe Pierce county is a sign of things to come

    Germany’s method of creating wealth is straightforward:
    1. Produce a highly educated workforce.
    2. Have that workforce create and make advanced, precision things for high wages.
    3. Export the things at a high price and then re-invest that money back into item 1.
    This is why Germany is the Number 2 exporter in the world despite having only 27 percent of America’s population and only 6 percent of Number 2 exporter China. The Germans realize they cannot beat either China or India based on cost. Advanced nations can’t compete on cost. America could bust all the unions, get rid of the minimum wage, eliminate all social benefits and taxation and we would still lose jobs to low-wage nations. Germany decided to avoid going down the same path of downward spiral among its middle class that we are in. Instead, they invest in their people and in research.

    What are we doing in the TeaBagger America?