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Regional Survey: Barriers Restrict Labor Mobility

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Wednesday, June 22, 2022   

The so-called "great resignation" isn't playing out for all workers. A new survey covering North Dakota and Minnesota shows people on the lower end of the income scale face obstacles in jumping to other job opportunities.

The Minneapolis Federal Reserve Bank, along with Community Action agencies in both states, heard from more than 200 individuals, mainly working in social services, education and health care. Most expressed a desire to move up the career ladder, but said they lack the resources to learn new skills, or that expenses such as child care get in the way.

Erick Garcia Luna, regional outreach director at the Minneapolis Fed, said it becomes more pronounced for people earning very little in their current job.

"If a family is making minimum wage," he said, "they're going to have a harder time taking the time, for example, to get trained for another job."

Nearly 60% of respondents making between $10,000 and $25,000 dollars a year said it's either "somewhat or very difficult" to make an occupational change. Community Action Partnership of North Dakota said the survey also revealed these individuals are finding it harder to meet basic needs amid rising inflation, but also can't afford to pursue a better-paying job.

Ashley Littlewolf, workforce development case manager lead at the Southeastern North Dakota Community Action Agency, said she sees a lot of overlap with these barriers.

"They're feeding each other, the barriers are increasing each other," she said. "That need for new skills, and then finding the day care - and also, the jobs not paying enough."

While some employers are offering better pay, Littlewolf said the findings should prompt more action to boost starting wages. She said expanding the hiring pool can help, too.

"Taking a chance on someone who may not have that experience," she said, "but offering on-site training, offering the opportunity for them to enter that career path without the experience or education."

Disclosure: Community Action Partnership of North Dakota contributes to our fund for reporting on Community Issues and Volunteering, Health Issues, Hunger/Food/Nutrition, Poverty Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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