The national unemployment rate will be updated Friday when the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics releases the monthly Employment Situation report for June.
Fueled by election-year rhetoric, the jobless rate will generate a lot of scrutiny and buzz for a week or so, making a local jobs story almost mandatory for business writers. One way to generate new story ideas is to look at the detailed tables offered by the Employment Situation report, rather than the overall number. You can drill down by age, ethnicity, sex, educational attainment and other factors to narrow the focus of your piece. State and metropolitan area reports are released a few weeks after the national report, unfortunately, so the data always will be a bit out of sync, but it’s still useful.
And another BLS report coming out next week is, to me, even more interesting than the employment rate and a good premise for a regional look at jobs. It’s the Job Openings and Labor Turnover report, (JOLT) which also comes out every month and gives a snapshot of activity including hiring, open positions and workr “quits” as they are called.
The JOLT report will be updated July 10; data are reported on a regional basis and by industry category, which can provide some good context for an interesting yet anecdotal local story about job openings and turnover in your area. The BLS collects this information by surveying 16,000 businesses a month. I like JOLT because it takes a more balanced view of the jobs market; for all the relentless focus on UNemployment, the fact is that upwards of 80 percent of Americans who want a job, have one. There are milions of job openings at any given time and people actually are quitting good positions all the time.
Why not take a look at half a dozen or more jobs being offered in your area and dig into the story behind them. Are they newly created positions? Were they vacated by people with lots of tenure or do the jobs generate high turnover? What are the wages and benefits? What skills are required? How long were the jobs unfilled? Talk with employers about these details to get a sense of what positions are out there.
I did a quick Craigslist search and found quite a few open positions in my area, in occupations from bartending to writing to human resources. One ad was for an icre-cream truck driver/vendor (“route warmed up and ready to go; pay is 35 percent of sales”) — while perhaps not the right job for the centerpiece of your story, a sidebar on such quirky positions would help show that there are of niches to be filled by non-college grads and others struggling to get a paycheck.
In addition to Craigslist, check out the ads on Monster.com, and don’t forget to review the Monster.com local employment index for your region, if it’s one of the 28 local areas the company covers; it sorts by occupation which may give you some hints about what types of jobs would make an interesting focus for your package. Also, note that the Conference Board is just out with a June report on online employment ad activity; it says advertised job vacancies were nearly 5 million in the month. The report includes state, metro area and occupational highlights and is well worth a read to see how pattern vary by region nationwide.