Looking into the Labor Gap

We’re calling it the Labor Gap. We’ve seen it ourselves and heard about it from employers all over the Tri-Lakes area, from hotels to sawmills. Employers are competing to hire a smaller pool of workers, sometimes offering higher pay, better benefits, bonuses and a willingness to train.

We even heard a politician say, with a twinge of embarrassment, they he might have to back off the typical “Jobs, Jobs, Jobs” mantra. Business people were telling him they had plenty of jobs to offer but not enough willing, qualified workers.

The workers are out there; they’re just a bit harder to find. The North Country’s unemployment rate is quite a bit higher than the 4.4 percent national rate and 4.6 percent state rate. Last year it was 5.9 percent in Franklin County and 5.5 percent in Essex, according to state labor statistics. Still, that’s down from 9.6 in both counties five years earlier, and the difference is noticeable.

Starting today, the Enterprise will publish a series of news stories looking at different aspects of the Labor Gap. Today’s article is more broad, touching on many aspects, but later articles will look as specific aspects of the situation, such as education and job training programs. Tomorrow’s article, for instance, will focus on high school guidance counselors. Wednesday’s will look at a program that has helped people with disabilities, get, learn and keep full-paying jobs.

We’re working on other angles as well, and we’re very open to your story ideas. Please submit them to Managing Editor Peter Crowley at pcrowley@adirondackdailyenterprise.com, 518-891-2600 ext. 22, 54 Broadway or P.O. Box 319, Saranac Lake, NY 12983.

While we’ll start with a consecutive string of stories, Labor Gap will continue beyond that as an occasional series, as long as it’s still interesting.

On the same topic, Alan Beideck of Saranac Lake recently retired from the local Department of Labor office and started writing a biweekly column for the Enterprise called Economics and You. For his first column, on Feb. 6, we asked him to address the Labor Gap, and he did so in a way that was both informative and entertaining — including his own topical twist on the Beatles classic “Help!” Go back and check it out if you missed it.

Finally, the Enterprise is working hard to be of service for employers and employees by hosting the Tri-Lakes Job Fair. The first date was snowed out, so the new one is April 25. Like before, it will take place from from noon to 4 p.m. at the North Country Community College gym. Numerous job seekers will be there, from teenagers on up, so local employers would do well to book a table. To do so or to learn more, call Lindsay Munn at 518-891-2600 ext. 20.

We empathize with both employers and employees, and we’re eager to engage with this topic to explore how the Tri-Lakes area can build a stronger job market, a stronger labor market and better local pipelines to those jobs.


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