Mike Fredrich shows off unmanned presses in his Manitowoc, Wisconsin, company. They're ready to start production at MCM Composites, a 55-person enterprise that makes custom thermoset molding.
The only problem? Fredrich has no one to operate them.
"These tools are heated to 300 degrees," he said. "But we're not running them. Had we had the people for the first shift, we could have been running this all day. But we don't, so they sit here heated, ready to go, with no action."
"There are no workers, but there's a huge demand. The economy has picked up, but the market is so thin, that we just can't find them. We've gone to extraordinary means to find people that will actually work, including going to the local county jail and recruiting people to work from inside the jail," Fredrich said.
"Finding the right person for the job is always a challenge, but obviously in a tighter market like this, it becomes far more difficult," said Raymond Keating, chief economist at the nonpartisan Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council. "It's a function of a few things — the labor participation rate is fairly low for an economic recovery expansion period. So there's room for people to come back into the labor force. And, as long as economic growth continues, which we want to happen, we are going to have to deal with some tight labor markets."