Metro worker reports mixed
Beth Grosen's job is to draw companies to Moorhead. A recent study suggests she's got a good product to sell, but less of it than she thought. The study, commissioned by economic development groups in Moorhead and Fargo, shows local employers hav...
Beth Grosen's job is to draw companies to Moorhead.
A recent study suggests she's got a good product to sell, but less of it than she thought.
The study, commissioned by economic development groups in Moorhead and Fargo, shows local employers have a higher regard for their employees than bosses in other areas.
However, it also estimates 11,900 of 105,400 people working in Clay and Cass counties are underemployed, a decrease from previous studies.
Underemployed workers are those interested in seeking different, higher-paying jobs.
A 2000 study estimated there were 15,800 underemployed workers in the F-M area. A 1997 study had the figure at 19,000.
"That's both great to see and difficult for us from a recruitment standpoint," said Justin Andrist, research director for the Fargo-Cass County Economic Development Corp.
It is difficult because businesses examine the number of underemployed workers when considering an area, said Grosen, a business development specialist with Moorhead's Economic Development Authority.
"There was always this assumption that all these people were underemployed," she said. "Information is good, even if all the conclusions aren't quite as positive as they were in the past.
"I think this reflects our reality," Grosen said.
A focus on reality may partly explain the sagging level of underemployment.
The Pathfinders, the Dallas-based company that conducted the study, uses a more rigorous method to gauge underemployment, Andrist said.
The Pathfinders researchers consider a worker's education, job history, experience and skills to determine if he or she is truly underemployed.
The studies in 1997 and 2000 counted each worker who claimed to be interested in applying for new work, even if they had a high school education and had been in the same job for two decades.
Area companies gave their workers "excellent" ratings for productivity, reliability and competency more often than employers in most other cities studied by The Pathfinders.
Ninety-five percent of Cass and Clay county employers rated their workers' productivity as "excellent" or "good." The same percentage rated their workers' reading and writing skills as "excellent" or "good."
Another section of the study shows the area's underemployed have the most experience and skill in some of the lowest-paying fields.
The fields in which F-M underemployed workers have more experience than those in a majority of the 280 areas studied are word processing, call centers and sales.
A similar comparison indicates word processing is the only field in which a higher-than-median percentage of the area's underemployed has skills.
In contrast, 9 percent of the area's underemployed have skills in the field of electronics and engineering technology, 1 percent higher than the lowest percentage reported in any city studied.
FCCEDC President Brian Walters said his organization will use the study to target companies that are a good fit with the local work force.
That doesn't mean focusing on companies offering the lower-paying positions for which most of the area's job seekers are qualified, he said. It does mean making sure jobs in those fields are higher-paying, he said.
"I think the bottom line is it's a mistake to focus on job creation," Grosen said. "We need high-paying jobs."
Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Roepke at (701) 241-5535