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County labor market improving, but still competitive

If there happens to be a massive layoff in Washington County, the Workforce Center steps in and competes with other independent organizations to assist dislocated workers.

That’s one strategy it promises in the annual plan that ensures state and federal dislocated worker programs will provide services to job seekers in compliance with state and federal policies.

A draft of the new 2013-14 plan was approved by the Washington County Board of Commissioners last week and is now available online for public comment.

“It’s still competitive out there,” said Deborah Reckner, program coordinator at the Workforce Center. “The economy is getting better, but there are still more job seekers than there are jobs.”

The plan highlights labor market information around the county that states a total of 468 individuals were enrolled in the dislocated worker program in 2012, compared with 564 in 2011.

As of April 2013, the Washington County unemployment rate was at 4.7 percent, compared with the state’s 5.3 percent rate, according to the data.

Labor force projections for the county show a 14 percent increase in the size of the labor force between 2010 and 2035, and the fastest growing segment of the labor force will be residents 65 years and older.

“There is a lot of baby boomers still continuing to work because they lost money in the recession, so that’s a piece of it,” Reckner said.

Statistics and data are accompanied by information for job seekers in the Workforce Center plan that Reckner said is essential in the job search process.

Along with the skills gap and educational tipping point, workers need to be on the cutting edge of techniques on how to look for work, the plan states.

With social media so prominent, the county is now offering workshops for job seekers on how to use LinkedIn, Twitter and other platforms in their search.

Additionally, 31 to 51 percent of the local labor force has not reached the skills gap needed for their industry.

In Washington County for example, the skills gap remains visible in small manufacturing.

“Entry level isn’t the way it used to be,” Reckner said. “It’s not a low-skilled assembly job.”

The Workforce Center offers training programs for individuals who want to find their niche in the workforce with approximately 77 percent of participants in the state and federal programs enrolled in a training activity last year.

“It’s a huge piece of what we do here with our employment and training program,” Reckner said.

The report highlights some positive numbers, though, with the addition of 639 jobs in Washington County led by health care and social assistance over the past year, along with arts, entertainment, recreation, accommodation and food service.

“We certainly do see people getting jobs faster, and even some of the folks who’ve been unemployed for a long time are getting jobs,” Reckner said. “Things are way better, but it’s still tough out there. The number of jobs is still not up there to the number of job seekers.”

To view the full plan, visit and click on the Workforce tab. Comments will be accepted until June 30.

Riham Feshir
Riham Feshir is a reporter and photographer for the Woodbury Bulletin. Her coverage includes Woodbury City Hall, Washington County Board of Commissioners and business news.  Follow Riham on Twitter @RihamFeshir for the latest updates.