Hutchinson — Demand for workers in much of rural Kansas outpaces the labor force pool, a new report shows.
The 2008 job vacancy survey, conducted by Kansas Department of Labor, examined several districts within the state. In District 1 - which included 62 counties in central and western Kansas - demand for workers outpaced the supply.
"I'm not surprised," said Dana Regehr, economic development director for the Hutchinson-Reno County Chamber of Commerce. "It reflects everything we're hearing from our companies here in terms of the labor pool."
Employers in central and western Kansas reported 8,573 job vacancies during the second quarter of 2008.
"Really, this report doesn't show me anything I didn't know," said Eric Depperschmidt, president of the Finney County Economic Development Corporation. "So it tells us that we are focusing our efforts in the right areas in terms of recruiting and retaining a work force."
The survey found the average number of unemployed during the same time period was 10,526, or an average of 1.23 unemployed persons for each vacancy.
But Gene Pflughoft, Grant County economic development director, questioned the unemployment figure.
"When they talk about 10,000 people out there who are unemployed, I'd certainly like to know where they are," he said.
Demand for workers was spread across all major occupational groups. The office and administrative support group reported the most job vacancies at 1,079. That was followed by the sales, the transportation and material movers groups.
The highest job vacancy rates - which looks at the number of vacancies per filled positions - were in farming, fishing and forestry at 8.9 percent. The architecture and engineering rate stood at 7.7 percent.
About 69 percent of job vacancies in the region either required no education or just a high school diploma.
"I find the survey to be a double-edged sword," said Jennifer Burch, executive director of the McPherson Chamber of Commerce. "On one hand, McPherson and the other areas of District 1 have jobs available at varying degrees of education or training requirements. And on the other, we don't have the work force to tap into in filling those jobs."