SearchHomeMenuSign UpDonate

Government, Industry Report: Workers Need Skills and Higher Pay

News Release
April 19, 1999

House Bills "misguided and fail to address Oregon's labor shortage"

A series of reports from the Oregon Employment Department issued last week document a labor shortage in Oregon and pin the problem on workers lacking job skills and employers offering low wages, according to the Oregon Center for Public Policy. At the same time a business research and education organization, the American Management Association, released the results of a survey indicating that more than a third of job applicants nationwide do not have the basic math and reading skills required for the jobs they are seeking.

"The reports from the Employment Department show businesses in every region of Oregon are in dire need of skilled workers," said Jeff Thompson, an economist with the Oregon Center for Public Policy.

The Employment Department's Around the State reports for the weeks ending April 9 and April 16 identify two primary causes for the labor shortages in both urban and rural areas. First, "the low wages offered by some employers are causing difficulties in filling job orders." Second, there is "a true skill gap: wages being offered are competitive, but there is a lack of qualified applicants with the required skills."

The reports show that companies throughout Oregon have had tremendous difficulty filling positions including auto mechanics, registered nurses, accountants, electricians, engineers, many high tech jobs, secretaries, laborers, home health aids and truck drivers. The Department's reports are based on surveys of field office managers who receive information from employers seeking employees through the Employment Department.

"For most of these positions, companies simply cannot find enough workers with the skills required for the job or they are offering pay that is too low to attract skilled workers," said Thompson.

Thompson contrasts these findings with proposals in the legislature to establish a "work-first, training-last" workforce investment system (HB 3203) and to establish a lower minimum wage for tipped workers and new workers under age 18 (HB 2793).

"The Employment Department reports, coupled with the report by the American Management Association, show that 'work-first, training-last' provisions in HB 3203 are misguided and fail to address Oregon's labor shortage," said Thompson.

"The Employment Department reports also show that in a variety of restaurant industry occupations - cooks, bartenders, waiters, waitresses and dishwashers - restaurants are not offering wages high enough to fill positions," said Thompson.

Thompson is confident that the minimum wage increase has not caused the problem. "Instead of laying off workers and cutting back hours as proponents of the minimum wage rollback have claimed would happen, the Employment Department notes restaurants in many parts of the state are actually scrambling to find workers," he said. "When so many restaurants still don't pay enough to attract workers it is hard to claim the minimum wage is too high."

Thompson noted that the Employment Department has documented the continued growth of restaurants in Oregon. "If Oregon's minimum wage was really so bad for restaurants, maybe Rustica, Burger King, Dairy Queen, Carl's Junior, Jack in the Box, Subway, Yokos, Pizza Mondo, The Golden Oldies' Diner and others wouldn't have started new restaurants in Oregon in the first few months of 1999, but they have," he said.

Around the State is available on the Employment Department's web page at http://olmis.emp.state.or.us in the publications section.

###

Posted in Education.

More about: labor market