Lancaster County Economy “Still Not Back” to Pre-Recession Levels…. Is that All Bad?

The National Association of Counties recently released its “County Economic Tracker 2014, Progress through Adversity” report and the headline is not good for Lancaster County. But upon further analysis I’m not so sure that I agree 100%.

The report looks at four areas: jobs; unemployment rate; GDP; and home prices.

The report states that the Lancaster County Economy remains behind in all four areas. I believe that in many respects that’s good. Here’s why.

  • Home Prices – It seems to me that overinflated home prices was a contributing factor in the recession (or mess as I like to call it) in the first place. Home prices are recovering – just not at pre-recession levels. I’d argue that’s better than if prices were back to those levels. Slower, incremental growth works for me in this area.
  • GDP – OK – this is one I’d like back at pre-recession levels. However – the forecasters I follow are all looking for smaller growth in the near term. Growth still works for me.

Now on to my specific area of expertise:

  • Job Growth & Unemployment Rate – I’m lumping the other two indicators of the report into one bullet. Lancaster County’s pre-recession unemployment rate was 3.6%. I’ve said this before – that’s too low. That number basically represents full employment – and is restrictive to companies looking to grow. Lancaster sits at 4.1%. We’re close. If you’re reading this you’re probably in the same boat we are here at TriStarr – it’s really hard to identify candidates for open positions. It’s our JOB and it’s hard. Now – for us this is good for business so I’m not complaining. More and more of you are turning to us to help you find and hire talent. However – it slows your growth, and does cost you money. And on this one folks I have to tell you – all the signs and forecasts I follow say we’re in for a tough hiring market for a while.

So – I don’t think we’re doing all that bad locally. Slower increases in housing prices and GDP growth means a softer fall in the inevitable next recession. And for me – a tough job market means our services are more and more necessary and cost effective. If you’re looking for people contact us. And don’t call me with the easy stuff (anyone can do that). Call us with the hard stuff. You’ll be glad you did.

Strong Hiring Numbers – Nationally and Locally

I subscribe to several industry emails to keep current.  In one email today there were three headlines (of the total of four) that really jumped out at me.  These headlines all show strong hiring numbers nationally and corroborate what we are seeing here locally.

First:  “US Manufacturing, Services Sectors’ July Hiring Plans Highest in Four Years”.  Based on a Society of Human Resources leading indicators survey the manufacturing sector reports that 58% of companies plan to hire and only 4.8% plan to reduce staff in July.  The services sector showed a similar trend with 54.4% reporting plans to hire and just 5.2% planning to reduce staff.  Both sectors report increased difficulty in recruiting professionals.  We are seeing this trend locally as well, with strong professional and temporary demand.  Further – we are also seeing the strongest wage pressure we’ve seen in years.  That’s upward pressure by the way.

The other two headlines sounded similar themes:

Second:  “US Adds 281,000 Jobs in June says ADP, Market ‘Improving’.”

Third:  “Online Job Ads Rise in June”

As stated above the employment market is tightening both nationally and locally.  We are seeing strong demand for qualified employees at all levels – and the supply is similar to what we were seeing pre-recession.  That’s why our business is strengthening lately.  More and more clients are turning to us to help them identify talent.  I’ve had several clients call lately exacerbated because they could not identify key staff.  SIX of those calls turned into Direct Hire placements for us in July.  We found the people our clients (and in several cases our competition) could not find.

If you’re having trouble identifying talent; number one, you’re not alone.  Number two, call us – we can help.

TriStarr’s Temporary Employee Workforce

So what does the temporary employee workforce “look like”?

admin staffing job seekers Recently TriStarr participated in a National Survey conducted for the American Staffing Association by Penn Schoen Berland.  The goal was to gather information about the temporary workforce.  By participating in the survey we were able to receive specific information about TriStarr’s temporary workforce.  There were some very interesting and positive facts that I’d like to share.

88% of our Temporary Associates reported they were extremely or very satisfied with TriStarr Staffing.

75%  of our Temporary Associates are registered exclusively with TriStarr Staffing.

80% of our Temporary Associates either have some college experience (22%) or at least a Bachelor’s degree (58%)

68% of our Temporary Associates prefer full time work assignments

88% of our Temporary Associates feel that temporary work has made them more employable

While we’re not perfect and we’re always looking for ways to improve, I was very pleased when looking at this data.  TriStar has a satisfied, skilled and educated workforce – that guess what? You have to come only to TriStarr (for the most part) to get!


admin staffing services promo


What to Wear to Work – How to Dress in the Workplace

Does adhering to a dress code really matter at work? The answer is yes; what you wear to work can either make or break you. You’ve heard the old adage “Dress for Success” and it is true. Not observing dress guidelines makes you stand out in a bad way. No one wants to be known for wearing ripped and faded jeans, a razorback tee and crocs to work. Remember that humans are inherently visual so if you make an attire mistake it will stick in your coworkers or supervisors minds.

Navigating the nuances of dressing for success can be hard. To help I’ve compiled a simple list of attire that is appropriate for a casual, business casual, and professional work environments. These are just guidelines so remember to be cognizant of the specific guidelines for your job and your company.

Guidelines for Casual Attire:

what to wear to work


  • Sundress
  • Long skirt or short
  • Jeans or khakis
  • Casual button-down or tee
  • Sneakers, loafers, sandals


  • Jeans or khakis
  • Casual button-down or tee
  • Sneakers, loafers, sandals
  • Casual button-down or tee
  • Polo shirt

Guidelines for Business Casual Attire:


  • Skirt, dresses, khakis or dress slacks
  • Knit shirt, sweater
  • Loafer, heels, dress shoes

what not to wear to work


  • Blazer/Sport Coat
  • Khakis or dress slacks
  • Button-down shirt (tie optional)
  • Loafers with socks

Guidelines for Business Professional:


  • Skirt suit/pant suit
  • Dress with jacket
  • Stockings (optional in summer)
  • Heels or dress shoes


  • Business suit
  • Leather shoes or dress shoes
  • Conservative Tie

Upward Wage Pressure is Forecasted

As I’ve reported here recently – upward wage pressure is forecasted especially in the 3rd and 4th quarters this year.  Click here to see more details in an article from the Wall Street Journal earlier this week.

Locally we are seeing upward wage pressure across all of our service lines.  As the supply of qualified labor continues to tighten increased wages are the natural progression.  Further, as the labor supply tightens and wages rise – qualified workers will be more apt to consider new positions.


Lancaster County Unemployment Rate Continues to Fall

The Lancaster County Unemployment Rate continues it’s fall.  Lancaster County’s jobless rate fell to 4.8 percent from 4.9 percent in February.  This is the seventh straight month that the unemployment rate has fallen and Lancaster County remains home to one of the lowest unemployment rates in the State.

Good news, right?  Not necessarily.  If you’re hiring, or trying to right now, the declining unemployment rate makes it harder to attract talent, as well as more expensive.  Fewer candidates mean longer searches and in the end higher wages.  We’re on the front lines – and this is exactly what we’re seeing.

This candidate driven market that we’re in means you need to be more diligent and work harder to find top talent.  The best and brightest aren’t sitting on the sidelines – they’re working.  How do you find them?  Well – we can help.  Call us.  But that’s not my main theme today.  Here are some ideas to help you navigate this talent market.

Set Reasonable Expectations.  The days of piles of applications for your position are over.  Remember you’re looking for quality anyway.  I always say I’d rather get three or four great resumes than fifty marginal ones.

Move Quickly.  When you find a good candidate – move!  They will not be around for long.  Don’t get hung up looking for one more candidate.  In this market, waiting to see one more candidate could cost you the first one.  And by the way – if they have been around for long…   be skeptical (see the next point).  Don’t think you can take weeks to make a decision on a candidate.  We could a few years ago – those days are over.

Be Skeptical.  As always please check, check again, and oh, one more time – check again!  Know who your hiring.  Test them, reference them , background check them, look at their Facebook page.  It’s pretty easy to hire someone – not as easy to fire them.

Be Prepared to Pay.  Wage pressure is increasing.  Our average annualized pay is $23,500 right now.  We’re a temp firm.  We’re at the lower end of the wage scale.  Know the wage market for your open positions and price yourself accordingly.  If you need some help – email me – I’d be happy to help make sure you’re paying appropriate wages for your team.

Know Where to Look.  Make sure you’re looking in the right places for your candidates.  Oh – and those places aren’t where they used to be.  Sorry – not telling.  I’m not giving away everything for free.

Finally – get used to this.  We’re going to be in this market for a while.

Need help?  Contact us.  You’ll be glad you did.

Finding Your Niche

You just graduated and you are being thrust into the big world.nich job wanted sign
For the past twenty-ish years of your life, it has been planned out for you. You go to school, make good grades, go to college, make good grades, and get an internship. You no longer have your professors or guidance counselors or parents guiding your decisions. You are on your own. This is your wake-up call, you can do what you want, when you want it. Europe, anyone? But after the luster of receiving your diploma has worn off, you begin to realize that the world is open to you and that is a frightening concept (or it was for me at least).

When I graduated, I thought that I had reached the pinnacle and it would effortless to land my first “real” job in the Public Relations field and I would be so successful that they would promote me to Account Manager and I would be a lifer at that organization. My expectations and my reality collided and my beliefs of effortlessness were put to bed.

I thought that I had reached the pinnacle and it would be effortless to land my first “real” job

The things that professors told me in college about it being easy to find work began to be slowly peeled back to reveal that in today’s economic climate having a good internship, good grades and proving yourself in school will not necessarily land you a job. When I graduated in 2011, the economy was unstable at best. Volatile is probably a more apropos description. I as a recent college graduate was competing with professionals who had actual years of experience in the field and I couldn’t compete. Some of my friends were lucky enough to land jobs from their internships but I wasn’t that lucky. My job hunt felt like I was wading through the briar patch and the thorns of rejection and the stickers of never hearing back were beginning to take its toll. I thought I was destined to work retail for the rest of my life. I made a commitment that working retail for the rest of my life was not an option and I would get another internship to beef up my resume..

When you graduate from college, you think that you can only apply to jobs that are in your field

I landed an internship at a local-nonprofit as their Public Relations and Event Planning Intern. I helped with events and logistics but mainly I input data in Raiser’s Edge. This internship kept me busy and helped ease my frustrations about my unemployed status. I wrapped up my internship in July and landed a temporary HR position at a local school district. This opportunity catapulted me in the HR field. I was basically thrown into the deep end and asked to not only stay afloat but also help the HR department have a semblance of order niche job search diagrambecause of the restructuring that was taking place at school district. This position helped crystallize my focus on what I wanted out of a career path.  And I landed a full-time permanent position in the HR field after that temporary position

When you graduate from college, you think that you can only apply to jobs that are in your field but my winding path led me to realize to not limit yourself to only jobs that are within your field but think about what types of things you enjoy and then find a position that matches those things. Working at a Temp Agency is one way to test out what you like and don’t like. Graduating from school is scary enough without really knowing what you want to do with you degree.

My tips for not getting frustrated with your job hunt and to stay calm when you aren’t hearing back from organizations that you applied to are as follows:

  • Work at TriStarr – temporary positions are an amazing opportunity to get experience and to find what types of positions you enjoy
  • Volunteer
  • Network – join organizations that interest you and meet people that could help you on your job hunt
  • Make a list of things you enjoyed about previous work experiences

Until next time,

Navigating the Outlandish Job Interview Question

We’ve all been there; you are asked a question that completely stumps you in an interview. You are unsure how to answer it and you don’t completely understand how this question will help them make a hiring decision. So take a journey with me into the Twilight Zone of Hiring to give you a little insight into what companies want from those questions and how to avoid being a causality of that minefield.

tough interview

Let me give a little insight into why these outlandish questions are asked in an interview. Companies want to test your adaptability, your ability to think on your feet and then articulate your thoughts in a coherent manner even when under stress. These types of questions are a good baseline to see your ability to think fast and express your thoughts. So how do you survive these questions?

  1. First off, don’t panic! My first reaction when I first started interviewing out of college was to freak out. My response to panic was probably one of the worst things that I could do because it caused my nervous system to go into overdrive, producing stress hormones and making my face turn an unflattering shade of red. It also made it harder to concentrate and come up with an answer to their questions. I learned to counteract this panic response by taking a deep breath and realizing that they aren’t looking for a specific answer (they are just looking for an answer that makes a semblance of sense). When I would take those deep breaths it would make me relax and in turn it would make it easier to come up with an answer. And my relaxed demeanor would speak volumes to the interviewer and let them know that I can handle the curveballs of the company.
  2. Secondly, and I can’t stress this enough, you have to read and read and read. Read books, read articles, read magazines…just read. It is so important to be informed. It not only gives you something to draw upon when asked outlandish questions but it keeps your mind sharp and agile. My favorite websites for professional development are TLNT, The Daily Muse, and Careerealism. These sites keep me up-to-date on trends that affect my industry and help me to keep my professional edge. So find a site that speaks into your industry and read everything that you can get your hands on. Become a go to person for knowledge. I can’t tell you how much reading has helped progress my career and to help my ability to network and hold intelligent conversations with executives and supervisors. Reading has saved me from many an awkward silence.
  3. My third tip is to answer the question. If they ask you, “How many cows are in Canada?’ (Google asks this question to their data quality candidates) then tell them that you think 10 million cows are in Canada. You won’t know the answer unless you look it up, but at least you answered their question. Here is an article (Crazy Interview Questions) devoted to various questions that organizations ask during their interviews. It is always best to come to an interview as prepared as you can; so search what questions are asked at each company you interview at and look for industry specific interview questions.

I think the weirdest question that I’ve ever been asked was, “If I could change the color of the sky, what color would I change it to and why?”

I think the weirdest question that I’ve ever been asked was, “If I could change the color of the sky, what color would I change it to and why?” I told them that I would change the color to be like a mood ring. The sky would change colors with the moods of the population. You could then see how society as a whole was feeling by looking up at the sky. I still don’t know if they liked my answer, but I still think it would be cool to have a mood ring the size of the sky.

Until next time,