Hisel: Unemployment decline creates ‘opportunity’Mitchell’s jobless rate drops for fifth straight month; economy roars.
By: Ross Dolan, The Daily Republic
A fifth consecutive drop in monthly unemployment numbers indicates Mitchell is entering new economic territory, said Bryan Hisel, executive director of the Mitchell Area Development Corp.
State Department of Labor statistics released this week put Mitchell’s seasonally unadjusted employment rate for October at 3.2 percent. The number betters the state’s 4 percent figure for the same period and is less than half the 8.5 percent national figure.
“For a nation where the main topic is the economy and the budget, we are in a very different place — a land of opportunity,” Hisel said.
During the national economic recession, Mitchell’s unemployment rate was consistently higher. It reached a peak of 7 percent in March 2009.
The new figures match messages being relayed by the business community, Hisel said.
“Orders have been strong in manufacturing segments, the farm economy is strong because of good prices and high productivity, and we’ve had some constructions dollars being spent.”
Mitchell’s past October unemployment numbers were 2.6 percent in 2008, 4.1 percent in 2009 and 3.7 percent in 2010.
It’s not strange that the Great Plains states are leading the nation’s economic recovery, believes Hisel. The region has historically had lower unemployment numbers.
“People don’t sit around and wait for checks,” he said.
While Mitchell isn’t immune to fallout from a downturn in the national economy, “our employment opportunities are very, very strong,” Hisel added. The new figures also indicate challenges for area companies if they are not able to fill the demand for a skilled workforce.
“That would mean management and ownership would start to make other decisions about where growth could occur — and that will stall out growth,” Hisel said. “You can’t make new product lines or take on new orders if you don’t have good people to perform the work.” A workforce summit held in Mitchell earlier this month showed that South Dakota and Mitchell must be aggressive to take advantage of the current opportunity. Short-term, the region must nationally advertise its jobs, Hisel said.
Longer-term, he added, there needs to be a redefinition of what constitutes a higher education.
“It doesn’t necessarily mean a traditional degree. A college education can be a two-year technical education. A lot of great jobs are in the trades and manufacturing, and employers need workers with serious skills.” Degrees and certificates like those offered by Mitchell Technical Institute often result in immediate employment, he said. A larger workforce will also create a need for housing, not only in Mitchell, but also in nearby communities, Hisel said.