Hiring & Keeping the Right Employees: New employment trends mean more, unique benefits.

Author:Barbour, Tracy

Amid historically low unemployment rates, companies nationwide are struggling to attract and retain qualified employees. And the problem seems to be exacerbated in Alaska by a population smaller than many cities and a declining pool of viable workers.

Consequently, Alaska companies must be even more resourceful in their efforts to acquire and keep employees who are qualified--and a good fit for their business. Aside from offering a competitive salary and benefits as key inducements, employers can also use less obvious lures to appeal to workers' broader desires--flexibility, professional development, bonuses, and other enticements can all help set a business apart. While incentives can't resolve labor shortages, they can make employers more competitive in the current job seekers' market.

Alaska's Dwindling Labor Force

The difficulty with finding and retaining suitable talent in Alaska is being fueled, in part, by the state's shrinking labor pool. Alaska's labor force peaked in November 2011 at 366,844 people, which was the number of Alaskans age sixteen or older who were employed or looking for a job. according to the Alaska Department of Workforce and Labor's October 2019 Alaska Economic Trends: How Government in Alaska Compares. As of July 2019, the labor force shrunk to 351,410, meaning more than 15,400 people have dropped out of Alaska's labor force since November 2011,

"At the same time, the unemployment rate decreased by more than a full percentage point, from 7.5 percent to 6.3 percent," the October 2019 Economic Trends states. "Given the decrease in the size of the labor force, this suggests people who lost their jobs have been more likely to simply leave the labor force altogether than to look for new jobs in Alaska."

Some of Alaska's diminishing labor force can be attributed to age-related decreases. Baby boomers are retiring faster than younger people are entering the labor force to replace them. More specifically, Alaska has fewer sixteen-to-nineteen-year-olds, and they are less likely to participate in the labor force. The state also has fewer middle-aged workers between ages forty-five and fifty-four, and their participation in the workforce has also declined.

It's not clear why younger age groups are working less. But one thing is apparent: the limited talent pool is making it challenging for many companies in Alaska to maintain adequate staffing levels.

The Hardest (and Easiest) Jobs to Fill

Generally, the more specialization and expertise required for a position the more difficult it is to fill. There are two types of employees AKHIRE is always seeking for its clients: professional and skilled labor, including engineers, accountants, doctors, and attorneys, according to Todd Saunders, president and CEO of AKHIRE, a...

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