Podcast: Local Business Confidence Up, But Finding Workers Remains a Challenge

Community and Economic Development Planner Nate Robertson. (Courtesy photograph.)

Local businesses, recently surveyed by the Haverhill-based Merrimack Valley Planning Commission, are reporting confidence levels back to pre-pandemic levels, but note challenges to overcome.

Community and Economic Development Planner Nate Robertson, a recent guest on WHAV’s morning program, said there is still some wobbling.

“We see that, though labor force participation is up, we have historic job openings. We also have historic quit rates, increased early retirements, people switching jobs, a lot of sort of industry shuffle going on here in the local economy,” he said.

Robertson said one of the causes of labor shortage is that Massachusetts’ population growth rate has slowed.

“For the first time, we more deaths than births happening in Massachusetts. Obviously, this is probably a result of the pandemic we have all been going through for the past few years. All new population growth in Massachusetts actually comes from births and international migration, and so with the birth rate down and the death rate up and lower international migration, we are seeing fewer and fewer people coming to Massachusetts which leads to a tighter and tighter labor market,” he explained.

Robertson said a survey of about 30 businesses in the Merrimack Valley, mostly manufacturers, indicated 93% said hiring workers is their greatest challenge. Two-thirds of them are reducing productivity because of the shortage. One solution may be more affordable housing since, over the years, population growth has outstripped the production of housing, not only in the Merrimack Valley, but also across the east coast.

Robertson added Massachusetts Growth Capital Corporation is releasing $75-million statewide, in grants to small businesses impacted by the pandemic. Information on the program may be found at WeAreMV.com.

Besides WHAV.net, WHAV’s “Merrimack Valley Newsmakers” podcasts are available via Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music, Spotify, Stitcher, iHeart Radio, Google Podcasts, TuneIn and Alexa.

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