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Editor’s Note: Workforce Stats Paint a More Optimistic Picture, Although Challenges Remain

Industry is still being challenged by low unemployment and the e-commerce surge among other concerns but is continuing to spend on new facilities and “to think outside the box” when it comes to fulfilling workforce needs.

Q3 2023
Despite high inflation, U.S. labor force growth has been better than expected — with the workforce adding 187,000 jobs and unemployment decreasing to 3.5 percent in July 2023, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Manufacturing construction also continues to surge. Since the beginning of 2022, construction spending on new factories has more than doubled, from an annualized rate of $91 billion in January 2022 to $189 billion in April 2023 — the biggest increase since data going back to 2002!

So, while the Fed is still worrying about rising prices throwing the economy into a downturn, the positive statistics cited above paint a different picture. Companies are still expanding, and individuals are still employed and spending, with much of that spending still online post-pandemic, with the U.S. topping $1 trillion in e-commerce sales for the first time last year. This does, however, present a challenge for the businesses engaged in e-commerce as they compete for prime real estate on which to place distribution facilities, especially those covering the last mile. According to Matt Powers of JLL, in order to stay competitive, industry leaders must think ahead of challenges in space constraints, supply chain management, and more.

With low unemployment, industry leaders must also “think outside the box” when trying to satisfy their workforce needs. JLL’s Dianne Jones points to the shift in how people work brought about by the pandemic, encompassing employees’ desire for flexibility and a better work/life balance. Office workers want to keep their hybrid schedules that allowed for working at home at least some of the time. But even industrial workers who must be on site are demanding more flexible schedules or shifts. All companies should also have clear metrics in place for advancement, says Jones.

Thinking outside the box often involves finding workers whose skills can be transferrable to those a company requires if provided with the correct training. It’s for this reason — outstanding workforce development programs — among other factors, such as available real estate, cooperative state and local governments, and speed of permitting that growing firms continue to locate in the Southeast region of the U.S. Our 14th annual Top States for Doing Business survey of location consultants confirms this fact. Read more about the factors that landed the states on top in this issue.

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