Labor Availability in Tennessee

By George Aslinger, UT CIS Solutions Consultant

I recently read an article titled, "Opinion: How COVID Inspired a New Generation of Entrepreneurs", and it got me thinking about Tennessee's workforce.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that there were a record high of 9.3 million jobs available in May [1]. Labor availability, however, is the number one issue I hear as I visit manufactures in Southeast Tennessee.  Already a complex issue often reduced to single concerns in search of quick or easy fixes, higher unemployment compensation has made this issue even more complex. 

Although Tennessee is one of the many states stopping or reducing the additional federal COVID compensation in an effort to encourage individuals to return to work, the increased volume of new businesses within Tennessee presents an additional challenge to manufacturers.

New business filings in the first quarter of 2021 grew by more than 55% from a year ago. This is a record high during the first three months of the year. In fact, the number of new business applications from the U.S. Census is up 38% compared to the year before the pandemic [2]. These news businesses are attracting more employees than manufacturers, and, in some cases, leading employees away from manufacturers.

"Despite the widespread economic disruption the pandemic launched, forcing thousands of small businesses to shut their doors, American entrepreneurship has skyrocketed," said Victoria Baltz, the resource coordinator at the INCubator, Hamilton County's business development center in North Chattanooga. "We're seeing that play out locally too, especially in our Hamilton County INCubator." The county's Business Development Center has attracted 26 new business startup tenants in the past year, Baltz said.[3]

The growth of new businesses is good news for Tennessee's economy, but it intensifies the existing workforce challenges within the manufacturing community.

How can manufacturers compete with new businesses? Manufacturing companies must develop plans to deal with workforce shortage both short and long term. Fortunately, UT CIS has the programs to assist.

  • SMART Talent Systems assessment and framework will review hiring, training, retaining Human Resources Systems to improve processes, helping to make your organization a more attractive place to work.
  • Industry 4.0 Assessment will assist with evaluating the impact of automation and robotics on reducing labor requirements,

Contact your local Solutions Consultant today to see how you can develop a workforce plan to attract and retain employees.