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Workforce Top Issue Facing Employers In Iowa As Economy Improves

Michelle Hurd

A second-quarter Economic Outlook Survey by the Iowa Business Council reports a “strong confidence” in the state’s economy. This represents an increase in optimism across all areas measured by the IBC compared to results from the previous quarter.

The report measures member expectations for sales, capital spending and employment for the next six months. The most recent survey’s overall economic outlook index is 64.17, an increase of 4.5 from the first quarter. If the index is above 50, the sentiment is positive, according to the IBC.

“Concerns relating to workforce attraction and retention remain the No. 1 concern, with 90 percent of surveyed IBC executives listing it as a primary business challenge,” the report stated. “An unfavorable business climate tied specifically to supply chain challenges was the second primary concern, cited by 55 percent of IBC executives. 

“The cost of products and services continues to round out the top three business challenge, with 50 percent of IBC members reporting inflation as a core concern.”

Also, from a workforce perspective, 80 percent of the IBC executives surveyed said it was “somewhat to very difficult” to hire workers. This was down from 94 percent in the first-quarter survey.

“IBC members remain confident in Iowa’s economic position,” said Phil Jasper, president of Mission Systems for Collins Aerospace and chair of the Iowa Business Council. “Despite a narrative of an impending downturn in the national economy, Iowa business leaders are optimistic about the future here in Iowa.” 

For independent grocers in Iowa, workforce continues to be top of mind. Michelle Hurd, president of the Iowa Grocery Industry Association, said the state reported a 2.7 percent unemployment rate in May, a full percentage point below the national average.

“Grocers continue to take the necessary steps to prepare as much as possible for any potential uncertainties that may lie ahead,” Hurd said. “Challenges include attracting/developing/retaining a quality workforce and navigating supply chain issues and inflation. 

“Over the last few years, members have demonstrated resilience and flexibility in managing these challenges, and they have taken great care to continue serving their customers and communities.”

Some of the ways grocers are navigating these challenges include offering competitive wages and strategic product sourcing, she said. 

The IGIA supported a bill, SF 542, in the 2023 Iowa Legislature to review and modernize the state’s youth employment laws. The focus is to protect young people and provide valuable work experience, Hurd said. 

The bill, which was passed, makes changes to various regulations regarding allowable activities for employees under the age of 18, extends eligible work hours to them and allows for exceptions for employees participating in a registered work-based learning program, Hurd said.

Gov. Kim Reynolds signed the bill into law May 26.

Looking ahead, the IGIA is gearing up to hold the 2023 Get Connected Convention in Dubuque on Sept. 12-13.

“It’s the best place to meet grocery, convenience and food industry executives from across Iowa,” Hurd said. “This two-day event is packed with networking, education and entertainment that you won’t find anywhere else in the state.”

Read more association news from The Shelby Report.

About the author

Treva Bennett

Senior Content Creator

After 32 years in the newspaper industry, she is enjoying her new career exploring the world of groceries at The Shelby Report.

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