Workforce  |  Labor Survey

Quality of Labor Survey - August 2000


A competitive advantage is essential for the successful operation of business, particularly as the competitive environment keeps expanding within a global framework. Labor costs continue to rank among the largest expenditures in the operation of business facilities, thus managers' expectations and needs for labor are great. In most site location studies the availability of qualified labor ranks among the top five characteristics necessary for an attractive site.

Federal and State labor agencies report on the various characteristics as they relate to the employment and unemployment situation, but the quality of labor and the perceptions about that quality are more difficult to quantify. Only local surveys can supply this information for small regions.

This report seeks to provide answers to at least some of the quality concerns most often expressed by corporate site selection teams as they evaluate future locations for their facilities. It also serves to inform the local development team, including education and training services, of corporate support needed within the community for the continued successful operations of existing business facilities.


Names of 114 business firms within the Southeastern Illinois Area were provided by the local economic development groups. A four page survey form was developed by Ameren and SAIL to provide information about the employed labor force. Both objective information about employment, wages, work stoppages, commuting and benefits as well as subjective information on the quality of the workforce was included. Eleven questions about local issues were added which addressed specific concerns related to training programs, recruitment, workplace attraction and education.

One hundred fourteen questionnaires were mailed to business firms in the area. All responses of particular firms were kept confidential by aggregating the results.

Survey Results - Employment Profile


A total of 58 business firms completed and returned the Quality of Labor Survey. This was 51 percent of the 114 firms who received the survey. Three more responded but preferred to not complete the survey. Each of the nine counties in the region had at least 50 percent returns except for White County.

Employment Level

The 58 firms responding to the survey employed 9953 persons with an average of 169 employees per firm. The largest firm employed 2007 persons while the smallest included only 8 persons.

Location Age

The average number of years at the present location for respondents was 37.5 years. This included 13 firms with 50 years or more each.

Employment Time

Of the 9953 total number of employees 8994 (90 percent) were permanent full-time employees and 517 were part time. Twenty-six firms employed temporary personnel with a total of 442 such workers.

Worker Demographics

The average length of employment per employee was 8.9 years. The average age of employees was 39 years. The range in average age was from 30 years to 51 years with only 5 firms reporting an average age of 45 years or more. Employees averaged 12.5 years of full-time education with 14 firms reporting averages above this level.


Eight firms reported hourly union employment with a total of 889 employees. This represents 9 percent of the total employment by firms responding to the survey.

There were 2 work stoppages reported over the last five years, one internal with 21 days lost and one external with only 1 day lost.

Hourly Wage

The average hourly wage was $11.10 with a low of $6.00 (during calendar year 2000) and a high of $23.35 per hour. This compares to a U. S. average hourly wage of $13.63

Shift Differential

There were 23 firms reporting multi-shift operations with the average hourly shift differential for the second shift of 30 cents per hour and the third shift 36 cents per hour.

Absenteeism Rate

The average absenteeism rate over a 12 month period was reported at 4.75 percent.

Turnover Rate

The average turnover rate over a 12 month period was 13 percent.


Twenty-four firms (41 percent) reported company sponsored tuition for their employees. Employee participation from this group ranged from 1 to 100 percent, with 4 firms indicating over 50 percent participation.

Commuting Distance

Seventy percent of the employees live within 10 miles from their place of work. Another 26 percent commuted from 10-30 miles to work. Nearly 4 percent commute from 31-50 miles work.

Benefit Programs

A variety of benefit programs are made available to employees. All but two firms responding contribute to group life insurance for its employees with 41 firms providing better than 75 percent coverage. Over 76 percent of the firms provide some pension plan assistance to employees. All of the employers except one contributed to health insurance. One third of the employers contributed 50 percent or more to dental insurance programs and over 30 percent contributed to vision care programs.

Dependent coverage for health and dental insurance was provided by more than 60 percent of the firms responding to the survey. Over one-quarter of the firms provided group life insurance coverage for dependents.

Employer Contributions by Benefit Category


Employer Contribution

Dependent Coverage

100 75-99 50-74 1-49 None Yes No
Pension Plan 13 3 6 12 11 3 27
Group Life Insurance 31 10 2 4 2 10 27
Health Insurance 12 24 10 5 1 30 10
Dental Insurance 4 11 4 4 23 20 12
Vision Care 0 9 3 1 30 10 17

A salary reduction plan (401K) was offered by 47 of the employers. Employees were provided an average of 9.2 paid holidays per year, while the national average is 9.3 days. Employers provided an estimated average dollar contribution for benefits as percentage of wages at 24.8 percent.

Quality of Labor Characteristics

Fourteen quality of labor characteristics were ranked by employers on a scale of one (very poor) to five (very good). A rating of 3 is considered average.

Quality of Labor Characteristics Averages
Productivity 4.0
Reliability 3.8
Work Ethic 3.9
Friendly 4.0
Enthusiasm 3.5
Educational Achievement 3.3
Initial Skills 3.4
Trainability 3.8
Possess Company Spirit 3.5
Cooperative 3.8
Safety 3.8
Honesty 3.9
Attendance 3.8
Product Quality 4.2

Twelve of the characteristics had average ratings of 3.5 or better and none were below 3.0, both are considered good. Only three of the characteristics had firm rankings below 2.0 while all 14 characteristics included rankings of 5 (very good). Highest average scores were in productivity, friendly, and product quality, indeed the latter had nearly a third of the firms ranking it very good (5).

Productivity, friendly, and product quality received 4.0 or better average scores. Both educational achievement and initial skills ranked lowest with average scores of 3.3 and 3.4 respectively.