By Kim Brooks, Express Editor
Ryan Murphy with Iowa Workforce and Development’s Regional Research and Analysis Bureau gave a rather interesting presentation during the recent Jones County Economic Development roundtable on Oct. 9.
Murphy presented the labor shed analysis of Jones County, offering statistics on commuting patterns based on employer data, telephone surveys and random samples of those between the ages of 18 and 64.
The issues addressed within the labor shed study include:
• Availability and willingness to change/accept employment
• Distance willing to commute
• Out commute (live in Monticello but work for an employer located in another community)
• Education/training needs
• Underemployment (someone in an occupation that doesn’t match his/her educational level)
The idea behind a labor shed “is to give communities the ability to document and illustrate the characteristics of their labor force.” Murphy said this allows a community to have a tool to expand businesses and attract prospective employers to the area.
Every community in Jones County was survied to put this study into place. Monticello’s commuting area extends north to Dubuque, south to Cedar Rapids, and all communities in between.
Those who responded to the survey regarding employment status showed that 76 percent are currently employed; however, of that 76 percent, 20.5 percent are willing to change employment for various reasons. Of those employed, 75 percent have full-time jobs, 11.7 percent are working part-time, 11.4 percent are self-employed and 1.6 percent have seasonal employment.
Those who are employed are working within a wide variety of professions. The top three include: manufacturing (17.4 percent), wholesale/retail (15.8 percent) and education (15.4 percent). The bottom three professions are: entertainment/recreation (.8 percent), construction (3.5 percent) and agriculture/forestry/mining (3.5 percent).
“It’s no surprise that manufacturing is the top profession,” offered Murphy. “This is a manufacturing-rich region.”
With ag ranking low in the employment fields, Murphy said part of that could be due to the fact that it takes less people to farm these days. There are also co-ops.
One of the most interesting reports within the labor shed dealt with employment wages. Murphy noted that the figures, while high, include wages earned of those commuting to other communities outside of Jones County. The median hourly wage of those employed was reported at $15. The median yearly salary is at $61,250. (These figures do not include benefits.)
With 20.5 percent of those employed willing to change professions, they are earning $16.16 an hour or $53,500 in salary. Those unlikely to change their profession make $15 an hour or $62,750 in salary.
Murphy noted that reasons why people are not looking for another job include job satisfaction, age/retirement and good working relationships with one’s employer.
Where benefits are concerned, the top three offered by local employers are: health/medical insurance (88.4 percent), pension/retirement (70 percent) and dental coverage (53.2 percent). Of the health insurance offered, 78 percent share in paying premiums with their employer and 15 percent have all of their medical benefits paid by their employer. Murphy reported that PTO (paid time off) keeps increasing in the rankings of benefits employers are willing to offer.
Wanting to change current jobs, education levels show that 71.4 percent have some level of education beyond high school, 30.1 percent have an undergraduate’s degree, 7.9 percent have an associate’s degree and 4.8 percent have a postgraduate or professional degree.
Murphy provided some facts of those commuting out of Monticello for employment:
• 34.5 percent commute to other communities
• 28.9 percent are willing to change employment
• The average commuter age is 46 years old.
• They are currently commuting an average of 28 miles one way out of Monticello.
• The median current wage is $16.23 an hour.
• Those commuting out of town work in the following fields: manufacturing, healthcare/social services and public administration/government.
• 78.9 percent have an education level beyond high school.
“People want the small town quality of life but big city wages,” said Murphy of the figures presented. He said with Monticello strategically placed along the four-lane Highway 151, this increases the distance people will travel for work outside of Monticello, thanks to the ease of travel.
So what does all this mean? Jones County Economic Development Board member commented that this labor shed is a good tool for businesses in Jones County for retention and business expansion. For example, it can help existing businesses look at perhaps increasing the wages offered to attract employees or entice them to stay working.
For more on this labor shed, visit