Worker Turnover Data Points to Labor Shortage

Times Staff Writer

Employee turnover in San Diego County rose by .5% to 15.6% during the past year, reports the Compensation Practices Assn. of San Diego County. The increase was fueled largely by a shortage of younger, entry-level employees, according to N. Bruce Ferris, a co-founder of the association in 1979.

Turnover in San Diego County hit a low of 14% in 1983, according to data collected by the association, but gradually has been increasing as the last members of the massive “baby boom” generation enter the work force.

“The end of the wave is starting to show,” according to Ferris, who is Maxwell Laboratories’ personnel manager. “I defy you to go to a fast-food place that isn’t advertising for help. Everyone’s noticing the shortage.”

The employee shortage “is going to get a whole lot worse before it gets better,” according to Maxwell. “If (managers) aren’t doing something now about it, then it’s probably too late.”


‘Higher Up the Ladder’

The Compensation Practices Assn. gathers data from more than 50 San Diego-based manufacturing and research and development companies, including Maxwell, SAIC, Cubic and divisions of General Dynamics, Emerson Electric, Sony and Fujitsu. More than 30 non-member companies now buy compensation and turnover data from the association, Ferris said.

Association members note that the shortage is “mostly turning up in the production and maintenance people, and the technicians,” Ferris said. “But, eventually it’s going to go higher up the ladder.”

Some employers already are designing new wage and benefit packages to attract and retain employees, Ferris said. “We’re starting to see consultants come out of the woodwork with ideas on how to lure people to these jobs,” Ferris said.


‘Creative Solutions’

One option is “raising minimum and maximum salaries,” Ferris said. “Other companies are looking at more creative solutions like job sharing. You can split one job into two or more jobs.”

The nationwide shortage of entry-level employees is exacerbated by Southern California’s high cost of living, Ferris said. “Companies are having a hard time finding anyone who can live in this environment” on relatively low incomes, Ferris said.

Ferris said the dwindling work force will haunt the baby boom generation as it ages. “Fifteen years ago, there were seven workers for every single retiree out there,” Maxwell said. “But, as the baby boomers retire, it will be a one-to-one ratio. That’s not a pretty picture.”

EMPLOYMENT TURNOVER RATE Average 1988 employee turn over for the member firms was 15.6%, up half a point from the 15.1% reported for 1987. Results of the ten turnover surveys were: 1979: 27.9% 1980: 23.4% 1981: 21.8% 1982: 15.7% 1983: 14.0% 1984: 15.1% 1985: 16.8% 1986: 15.3% 1987: 15.1% 1988: 15.6% SOURCE: Compensation Practices Assn. of San Diego County