Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Carroll Area Development Corp. executive director Jim Gossett is spot-on when he talks of Carroll County’s consistently low unemployment rate as a mixed-bag of news.

Sure, it is mostly positive. Better to have people working than occupying Graham Park with signs and sleeping bags. Our local economy is in a far better place than much of the nation — in fact, most of the United States.

But as the CADC works to attract businesses the low unemployment rate is something of a challenge.

“It’s been years since Carroll County was out of the top 10 (in low unemployment in Iowa),” said Gossett.

Added Gossett, “If you’re going to have a problem with unemployment, this is the problem to have.”

Carroll County posted a 4.2 percent unemployment rate, the fifth-lowest for all counties in Iowa for the month of August, according to Iowa Workforce Development.

The rate is the same as the previous August and is far lower than the state average of 6.1 percent and the national rate of 9.1 percent.

Carroll County’s unemployment rate of 4.2 percent was the second-lowest of any of Iowa’s 99 counties in the month of June.

Bu this doesn’t tell the entire story. There’s another number that’s vital for any business considering hiring employees in Carroll County.

In Carroll County’s laborshed — a workforce of about 50,000 people between the ages of 18 and 64 that reaches into all area counties and stretches as far as Rockwell City and Guthrie Center and Ida Grove and Storm Lake — about 21 percent of those currently employed say they are “very likely” or “somewhat likely” to change employers or employment if presented with the right opportunity. That’s a pool of 10,000 people who are already working, good enough folks to have been hired by someone else at some point.

According to the 2011 Carroll County laborshed conducted by Iowa Workforce Development, 19 percent of the people who are employed but willing to change employment are now working two or more jobs. About 90 percent of the people are looking for full-time hours.

Women are more interested in changing jobs than men, the study reports. Of those employed but looking to move on, 58.6 percent are female and 41.4 percent are male.

The entrepreneurial spirit burns here as 20 percent of the employed who are willing to change employment expressed an interest in starting a business. Some examples of the ventures that interested the respondents: farming, child-care, computer-based businesses and new restaurants.

By way of comparison, the lowest unemployment rate in Iowa for some months has been in Lyon County, in the far northwest corner of the state where a new casino recently opened. The August unemployment rate in Lyon stood at 3.3 percent.

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Gossett delivered the quarterly CADC update to the Carroll County Board of Supervisors and the Carroll City Council on Monday.

Working with existing industry remains a priority, but the economic-development group also is aggressively seeking new ventures.

For example, this week the CADC is working with an agriculture manufacturer looking to possibly locate in Carroll. The firm would employ up to 10 people. Carroll is reportedly one of three cities in the running for the company, Gossett said.

“We’ve been working with this company for several months,” he said.