By: Sam Bailey, NLEA/DTE Foundation Graduate Intern
Living in Northern Lower Michigan, we’re familiar with the “Help Wanted” signs that dot the roadside every summer, yet this summer the signs seem to be everywhere. The month of June saw the highest number of local job postings since prior to the COVID-19 pandemic: 580 in Petoskey, 312 in Boyne Falls, 154 in Charlevoix, and 121 in Cheboygan, according to the Michigan Bureau of Labor Market Information and Strategic Information. Our area is currently unable to meet the demand for workers. National news has highlighted that the United States is in the midst of a nationwide labor shortage, but how does that manifest on the local level? On July 22nd, the Bureau of Labor Market Information and Strategic Initiatives released their most recent labor data, preliminary employment metrics for June 2021. The numbers show that while our local unemployment rate closely parallels the state’s, our labor force has been shrinking for almost 15 years.
The articles below explore the summer-time labor force for Antrim, Charlevoix, Cheboygan, and Emmet Counties from 2000 to 2021. These June metrics are important for two reasons. First, they are the most recent data to be released. Second, the summer month is also one of the peak months for employment and labor force in our seasonal economy. Every winter, unemployment rates rise and the labor force shrinks due to the loss of seasonal jobs and workers.
Internal Labor Force – Antrim
Internal Labor Force – Charlevoix
Internal Labor Force – Cheboygan
Internal Labor Force – Emmet
The total labor force across all four counties in June 2021 was 51,584. This is down from 54,618 in 2020 and 55,145 in 2019, but it has been trending downward since its peak of 63,578 in 2005. The shrinking of the regional labor force is paralleled by a shrinking labor force in each county. The regional and county trends are likely driven by a combination of decreasing total population, individuals exiting the workforce, the challenge of finding long-term rentals, and other social phenomena. The regional population has declined from 109,708 in 2010 to 107,916 in 2019. The smaller population is “greying” as well with 33.26% of the population 60-years-old or older in 2019, an increase of 8.03% from 2010, leaving us with fewer working age individuals. Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic has also caused older workers to exit the workforce sooner than they had planned. Housing is also playing a role in the labor shortage with many potential workers unable to afford housing in the region. Regardless of the causes, the declining labor force poses a challenge to the seasonal businesses that drive the tourism industry and the year-round employers.