Laborshed Studies

Many factors go into the economic develop equation – location is certainly important, as is transportation infrastructure, educational opportunities, quality of life, housing, taxes and more. Another important factor that many developers and businesses look at is a commu­nity’s or region’s labor force. This is where a developer may ask “What kind of education do folks in the area have?” or “What kind of skills do people around here have?” Being able to answer questions like these about your community’s labor force, or laborshed, will help show your strengths, identify areas for improvement, and improve economic development efforts.

Laborsheds Defined

A laborshed is generally defined as the area from which employers or an employment center draws work­ers. They typically include one main community and several other smaller communities in close proximity. A laborshed study provides important details about the labor force in the study area that can help city officials, businesses, developers and employers make important decisions. Studies typically use commuting maps to detail how workers are distributed throughout an area and then add characteristics of the labor force and employers.

Laborshed Study Process

Laborshed studies are typically completed through a combination of employer surveys, household surveys and analysis of demographic information. The random employer and household surveys typically take around eight weeks to complete and then an additional four weeks is needed to compile results and analyze the area’s demographics. Studies have a useful life of 18 months to two years before needing to be updated.

It is often best to work with neighboring cities, the county government, local economic development organizations, business groups and schools when considering a laborshed study. These groups and others will likely benefit from a study and can assist in determining what should be included as well as helping fund the effort.

What Laborshed Studies Show

While laborshed studies can show a wide variety of characteristics, it is common to see data regarding the employment status of those in the study area, including underemployment and the number of people willing to change employment. Many studies also show a break­down of which type of industry people work in, as well as demographics such as education levels, wages and benefits. Some studies may also provide details on how people search for jobs, distance willing to com­mute and more.
Just as important is to use a laborshed study wisely. Results should be shared with the public, news outlets, all cities and counties in the study area, developers, business owners, schools and others. Studies can certainly help in attracting new development, but they can also help inform existing businesses and industries of potential workers or areas for growth. Schools, including colleges, may analyze results and put together new classes or training to boost the labor force. Cities and other governments may see a need for significant infrastructure improvement, whether it be better roads, utilities, railways or other ways to help the local economy.

Laborshed studies are one of the tools developers, site selectors and employers use to make informed decisions about locating a business or industry. They are also beneficial to cities as a way to see important characteristics about their laborshed to help shape future policy decisions regarding community and eco­nomic development, public safety, transportation and more. Also, some grant opportunities require different studies, such as laborshed studies, to be included in the grant application so reviewers can measure the need and impact of the grant. Additionally, a laborshed study can help create publicity and inform the public of progress or a need for improvement.

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