The employment in Guernsey County right now paints a picture of good news and bad news.
The good news is that the unemployment rate in August was just 4.6 percent. The bad news is that the small pool of available employees presents a challenge for both companies already in the county as well as those looking to locate here.
Norm Blanchard revealed those statistics during a Friday morning meeting of the board of the Cambridge-Guernsey County Community Improvement Corporation. Blanchard is the CIC executive director.
He told the board he had checked on the unemployment rates of the surrounding counties. Only Tuscarawas County, at 4.1 percent, had a lower rate.
The total available workforce in Guernsey County is 19,000. So, the 4.6 percent figure would suggest that 874 people who could work are out of work.
Of that number, however, only 440 or about half are actually available to work, Blanchard said.
Why so few?
Various factors are at play, he said. A significant number are unable to pass screenings because of illegal drug use. Others, for whatever reason, don't want to work and won't apply for jobs.
Some unemployed people who are drug free and want to work lack the requisite skills or certifications needed for certain jobs, Blanchard said.
An example of that can be found at the Village of Byesville. At present the village is seeking employees for several positions in the village's utility departments, Administrator Brennan Dudley said.
A person cannot simply walk in off of the street and fill one of those positions. He or she must receive certification from the state as a water operator.
Of course, not all skilled work is so specialized and, in many cases, employers can provide the needed training or arrange to have it provided through institutions such as the Willett-Pratt Training Center on the Cambridge campus of Zane State College.
When a college degree is required, some local employers will help with funding the education through their tuition assistance programs, Blanchard said.
He added that not every well-paying job requires a four-year college degree.
"There are a lot of skilled trades out there that are open and they pay well," he said.
Seldom is there a time nowadays when the demand for workers has been greater than the supply. But that seems to be the case now and the situation presents a new challenge for local development officials and community leaders, he suggested.
"We have seven companies that are expanding or that have expanded," Blanchard said. "The companies that are here are healthy. We've just got to keep them supplied with a workforce."