Annual Survey: Employers Expect More Than 3,100 Jobs Over 3 Years

Employers plan to step up their hiring over the next three years, the findings of an annual business survey show.

The 508 employers taking part in the 2015 Northwest Arkansas Regional Employer Survey that was released today expect to hire 3,161 people in the three years. In the 2012, 2013 and 2014 surveys, employers expected to hire 965 to 2,037 workers over the next three years. The employers taking part in the survey change from year to year.

The Employer Retention and Expansion (ERE) survey allows outreach specialists from chambers of commerce in Bentonville/Bella Vista, Fayetteville, Rogers-Lowell, Siloam Springs, and Springdale to conduct face-to-face interviews with employers in their communities. The Northwest Arkansas Council coordinates the survey that’s occurred annually since 2012, and it compiles the overall findings.

“We can see the companies are positive about Northwest Arkansas and believe they’ll be able to create more jobs here, but many of the employers also acknowledge that they face some big challenges to reaching their hiring goals,” said Mike Harvey, chief operating officer of the Northwest Arkansas Council. “One of those challenges is our workforce. Just like it is in so many regions, Northwest Arkansas companies need more people with higher skills, and our region needs to take some major steps forward to help workers gain those skills.”

The Northwest Arkansas Council and the chambers of commerce are actively engaged with companies and educators about doing more to train workers. There’s a willingness among the region's secondary and post-secondary educators to do more to meet the workforce needs of local companies, Harvey said.

The survey’s other key findings were:

  • Employers expect to spend $336 million on expansions in the next three years.
  • Employers remain uncertain about the world and U.S. economies, but they felt positive about their prospects in Northwest Arkansas.
  • Three-fourths of 175 Northwest Arkansas employers that manufacture goods, distribute goods or maintain headquarters operations (PRIME employers) reported sales growth last year. Sales growth was reported by 21 percent of PRIME employers in 2012.
  • Skilled labor was identified as a top barrier by 52 percent of PRIME employers. In 2012, 10 percent picked skilled labor as a top barrier.
  • Among PRIME employers, 40 identified an inadequate supply of skilled workers as the No. 1 community weakness.
  • Major concerns cited by small businesses included the Affordable Care Act, Dodd-Frank Act, immigration, National Labor Relations Board overtime rules and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regulations.