Elkart, Indiana has the lowest unemployment rate in the US, with just 0.9 percent of workers looking for jobs. But this is a title that comes with drawbacks: there is lingering anxiety as officials consider the drawbacks of a town where no one is looking for work.
As reported by NPR:
While unemployment rates are hitting record lows all across the country, nowhere is it lower right now than in Elkhart, Ind. The city bills itself as the RV capital of the world, and at a rate of under 1%, some local leaders are wondering what if unemployment is actually too low?
For Lucas Vicentini, plant manager at Marson International in Elkhart, it means he’s having one heck of a time finding enough workers. Vicentini is trying to market his company to some bigger clients that will require thousands of tubes. But that worries him because there’s just not a lot of workers left here to help him meet any increased demand.
[…] So for the first time, Vicentini is turning to automation. He’s getting a big robot arm to do some of the more repetitive bending jobs. He says it’s simply the only way he can keep up.
Nada Sanders is a researcher at Northeastern University in Boston. She worries that too many workers are now thinking about the short-term benefits of a tight labor market. But she warns, that’s not going to last. While they have this unusual leverage, she says workers should be demanding training from their employers.
Sanders says it’s inevitable that in a low-unemployment economy, more companies like Morrison are going to have to get creative to stay productive while workers are scarce, and that will inevitably lead to more automation. She says community leaders need to recognize that while low unemployment sounds good, it can also be an inflection point for significant change.