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Nearly half of the employers completing the 2012 Livingston County Compensation & Benefits Survey anticipate increasing their workforce in the next year, and attracting and recruiting employees is their top goal.

The biennial survey is a project of the Howell Area Chamber of Commerce Foundation in cooperation with EctoHR Inc. and Livingston County Michigan Works!

Perhaps a sign of a strengthening economy, the jobless rate in Livingston County fell for the third straight year, outpacing the statewide average. Despite the decreasing unemployment rate, however, payroll jobs have not yet returned to their 2008 level, said Mark Reffitt, an analyst with the Michigan Department of Technology, Management and Budget.

In 2008, Livingston County’s unemployment rate was 6.7 percent; it soared to nearly 12 percent in 2009. The current unemployment rate is 8.3 percent.

Only 8 percent of companies responding saw a reduction in workforce in the past year, and only one anticipates cutting positions in the upcoming year.

Forty-seven percent of companies responding added employees in 2012, while 45 percent saw their workforce remain stable; nearly half anticipate increasing their workforce over the next year.

Livingston County’s central location between larger employment areas provides an additional challenge in that many workers travel outside the community for jobs.

“There’s more competition for workers here,” said Steve Williams of EctoHR. “And area employers are competing with others farther away.”

Area employers said their biggest challenge is reducing the cost of benefits, with the majority in a holding pattern for the next two years to see what changes will come in 2014 as a result of health care reform.

Sixty-nine companies representing over 10,000 employees participated in the survey, a cooperative effort of the Howell Area Chamber of Commerce Foundation and EctoHR Inc. Over half of the survey respondents (56 percent) were smaller employers, with 1-49 workers. Manufacturers represented 29 percent of the respondents; 24 percent were in trades and services; 17 percent were nonprofit organizations; and 7 percent were in the food or accommodation industry.

“This is a comprehensive look at local employment, and the only published data specific to the Livingston County workforce,” said Kim Esper, membership director for the chamber.

The 2012 survey results are detailed in a comprehensive report, which is free to all companies who participated in the survey, and available for $175 to those who did not. Contact the Howell Area Chamber of Commerce Foundation at 517.546.3920, or email