Booming Johnston Needs More Workers -- or Fewer Commuters
Posted May 16, 2007
Smithfield, N.C. — The landscape is changing in North Carolina's fastest-growing county.
Once thought of as sleepy and rural, Johnston County is on a growth fast track. Between 2000 and 2006, its population grew more than 17 percent – from 132,000 then to 155,000 last year. Statewide, growth averaged 10 percent in the same period.
The current state unemployment rate is 4.5 percent. Johnston County's is 3.8 percent, a sign of a boom.
Businesses need to attract workers, which is why there was a job fair in Johnston County on Wednesday.
Employers have to go hunting for help, for truck drivers and teachers and even state troopers.
Growth has changed not only how Johnston County looks, but how it works. Jobs are less rural and more high tech.
Ramell Oakley of the Joblink Career Center, part of the state Department of Commerce, knows.
“We find our jobs changing. We definitely find ourselves becoming increasingly urban,” she said.
Part of the challenge is retraining. Applicants “find themselves needing to be retrained in order to meet the demands of those higher skilled jobs,” Oakley said.
Still, Johnston County itself is a market for skilled workers, which can be a challenge when a third of county residents commute to Wake County for work.