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Labor Market Studies

Workforce Housing Demand

The research project assessed the demand for workforce housing in a specific Florida county. The funded effort was commissioned by the county’s economic development association. The survey asked a series of demographic questions; housing profile and housing costs; likelihood of moving in the near future; and ideal attributes of future homes. Lastly, participants were asked their perceptions of affordable housing as an issue in the county.

The following definition was presented to research survey participants: “According to HUD, families who pay more than 30 percent of their income for housing are considered cost burdened and would need more affordable housing options.” Nearly half of all respondents thought that affordable housing was either one of the county’s most critical problems (19.9%) or one of the more serious problems (28.5%), compared to other issues presented during the survey. More than three-quarters of respondents thought that finding affordable and safe housing was very difficult (40.7%) or somewhat difficult (37.1%).


Impact of Jobs in Distribution, Medical, and Manufacturing

A Florida county economic development association funded a sensitivity analysis to calculate the economic impact of generating 500 new jobs in Distribution (Transportation and Warehousing), Medical (Healthcare and Human Services), or Manufacturing. Information on the scenarios were provided by the county economic development association. The specifics were run through an econometric simulation model (REMI) in order to determine the impact. This sensitivity analysis was repeated later in 2018 for 200 jobs in those industry sectors.


Hurricane Labor Impacts Local Large Manufacturing Company

A manufacturer funded a labor study to determine the impact of Hurricane Michael on workforce availability and cost. The category five storm battered the Panama City region when it made landfall on October 10, 2018. Nearly six months after the storm made landfall, scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) upgraded the storm’s wind intensity to a category 5 storm on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale. This upgrade meant that Hurricane Michael was the first hurricane to make landfall in the United States (U.S.) as a category 5 in nearly 30 years. The region was devastated by both wind damage and storm surge flooding. It is estimated that the storm cost at least $25 billion with $18 billion of that in Florida, making it one of a growing number of “billion-dollar disasters."

According to the official report on Hurricane Michael from the National Hurricane Center, Hurricane Michael’s winds and storm surge “caused devastating to catastrophic damage” in Bay County. In Mexico Beach, 1,584 buildings were damaged out of a total of 1,692 in the town. Of those, 809 were entirely destroyed. Bay County had more than 45,000 structures damaged. More than 1,500 of those were destroyed, including severe damage to two hospitals [1]. In Gulf County, over 1,200 buildings had major damage with 985 destroyed and an additional 2,000 structures with minor damage.

Infrastructure repair and debris removal has been expensive, with aid slow to come from the federal government. In Bay County alone, the county government has borrowed $250 million to deal with its recovery efforts. According to the News Herald, Bay County estimates it will have to spend $650 million in total for hurricane recovery. So far, FEMA has allocated $152 million to public assistance grants.

According to FEMA, they have allotted $27,000 in repair grants for households; granted 22,000 households rent assistance; 2,000 households funds for hotels; provided 906 households temporary housing; and gave 7,800 homes USACE Blue Roofs. A housing crisis remains despite these efforts. Right after Hurricane Michael, the Panama City Housing Authority reported that half of their apartment homes would be condemned.

This catastrophic damage happened to a region that is more sparsely populated than others that have been recently devastated by hurricanes. The 2018 ACS estimates put Bay County’s population at 185,287. According to Florida’s Department of Economic Opportunity, there were 83,377 people employed in the county in March 2019, with an unemployment rate of 4.3% [2]. Last year, during the same time period, the number of jobs was nearly 2,000 higher and unemployment was at 3.6%. Gulf County is much smaller, with just over 16,000 residents. It had approximately 5,689 people employed in the county in March 2019 – down from 5,809 in March 2018.

Many of the issues surrounding the economic and workforce impact of hurricanes are well documented in the literature. The cost of damage, the time it takes to recover, the businesses that close, and the residents that relocate can all create lasting impacts that transform regions after this level of a disaster. However, there are also the impacts that are not as easily traced. How do these regional businesses adjust for the unquantified costs of doing business in a post-hurricane labor market? Are employees more difficult to find and what happens to the wages for these in-demand skilled occupations?

The Haas Center provided a report to answer those questions by using several case studies of the labor market after hurricanes as a benchmarking tool for businesses impacted by Hurricane Michael. The analyses reviewed three hurricanes in-depth: Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Wilma, and Hurricane Ivan. It also used recent data points from the regions impacted by Hurricane Harvey and Irma in 2017. Adding these case studies allowed the Haas Center to explore job posting information as a proxy for real-time job demand.