Lee EBCS: First Quarter 2023 Report
While at the national level we see signs of the economy slowing down, no recession has been recorded in 2022. Labor market conditions remain strong and labor force participation rate continues to track beneath pre-Covid levels. Inflation is cooling off on many fronts, but still not at the Fed’s target nor for a sustained desired period, meaning interest rates will remain higher but not expected to grow at the same rate experienced in 2022.
Results from the Executive Business Climate Index (EBCI) suggests that the county still has a way to go to fully recover from Ian. Business leaders reported better current economic and industry conditions, but these remained below pre-Ian levels. Lee County executives believe that better times are ahead as future economic and industry conditions measures were not affected in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian, and continued to grow from the third quarter of 2022. Because two of the three components that go into the EBCI are future expectations, the county saw an increase in the EBCI overall.
This quarter, the survey also asked questions relating to finding qualified workers. Over three-fourths of respondents reported having a somewhat or very difficult time in finding qualified employees for their business over the last 12 months. Employers stated reliability and self-discipline was the most important soft skill for their business, and the majority of executives (85 percent) said that their business offered on-the-job training for their employees, and seasonality, a major factor in the Lee County economy.
As one commenter states:
It's impossible to find qualified employees in this area. No one seems to want to learn, work, etc. And it is prohibitively expensive to live here. We hire employees in Chicago, and they work remotely.
Affordable housing indeed does play an important role in the attraction (and retention) of a qualified workforce. It is not an uncommon story to hear of a person accepting a job to work in a new city or county, only to find that the cost of housing (either renting or owning) in the new area to be too prohibitive. This leaves the business with potentially only hiring locally, shrinking the labor pool from which they can hire from.
We would like to thank all of the executives that participated in our survey. Without your continued feedback each quarter, our surveys would not be possible. Furthermore, we would also like to thank our sponsor, the Horizon Council, for helping make the survey happen.