Nashville-area employers added 3,500 people to their payrolls in February, growth that likely was hamstrung by the winter storm that froze a lot of economic activity in the middle of the month.

New data released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics show that Middle Tennessee businesses, organizations and government agencies finished February with nearly 1.013 million non-farm workers on their books. That was down 4.4 percent from the number of February 2020, a year-over-year drop in line with others of recent months. Notable growth last month came from education and health organizations (+3,500 jobs) and professional and business services firms (+1,600). Their growth helped offset seasonal losses in the leisure and hospitality industry (-1,800) and the trade/transportation sector (-1,600).

The winter weather, which blanketed much of Middle Tennessee with snow and ice for a week, put a damper on hiring activity, Randstad Regional Vice President Laquita Stribling told the Post. But the underlying demand is present, as more sectors reopen or ramp up, she added. The big issue is that the supply of workers is lagging: Many people remain displaced from their jobs due to COVID-19 or are unwilling or unable — because of family or health situations — to return to the region’s labor force at this point. (The BLS’ numbers showed that the Nashville-area labor force was 1.3 percent smaller in January than it was 12 months earlier.)

Stribling said companies with which her team is working are looking to both bring on permanent workers as well as hire temporarily or with an eye to making the move permanent down the road. But the current supply-demand dynamic is creating a battle for talent that, she said, is driving up wages for a range of jobs, particularly in the manufacturing and logistics sectors.

“A number of people in the market are entertaining five to seven offers at a time,” Stribling said. “With people who are really in play, it’s hard for us to get them through the whole process” because they get snapped up by eager companies.

Stribling noted that the snap back from the COVID recession for her team — “the floodgates opened last summer” — feels quite different from the slow recovery that followed the Great Recession a dozen years ago. Hiring managers, she said, are having to ensure they give candidates no reason — be it in terms of wages, benefits or other HR factors — to take their talents elsewhere.

And those looking for a sign to grow more confident in the regional job market in the coming months can take some solace from Randstad itself: Seeing demand persisting, the global company’s Middle Tennessee operation has itself hired 25 people in the past 45 days.

(Nashville Post

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