So says Anders Eriksson, head of the Employment Service (Arbetsförmedlingen) in northern Västerbotten, when Norran meets him and Ida Rönnblom, the office manager for the nearly one-year-old section of Arbetsförmedlingen that deals with industrial establishments and the green transition in northern Sweden.
During the summer, a forecast for the job market outlook was released, and recently, the unemployment figures for July were published.
In Skellefteå, the unemployment rate was 3.1 percent, a decrease of 0.4 percentage points from a year ago, but both Malå and Sorsele had even lower figures. In July, there were 1,108 unemployed individuals in Skellefteå.
– When unemployment is below four percent, people usually talk about a labor shortage, says Rönnblom.
– Unemployment has decreased among young people, foreign-born individuals, and those with disabilities, Eriksson explains.
The number of long-term unemployed individuals, those seeking work for a year or more, in Skellefteå during the same period was 330 individuals, or 0.9 percent.
Meanwhile, there are now over 2,000 job vacancies in Skellefteå on the Job Bank (Platsbanken)
– In March 2022, we saw more job vacancies in Skellefteå than available workforce for the first time. It's an exceptional situation in the north. We haven't had such low unemployment in the more than 20 years I've worked at Arbetsförmedlingen – and at the same time, there's also significant demand, says Eriksson.
Arbetsförmedlingen expects this trend to continue, and the northernmost counties are projected to have the lowest unemployment rates in 2024, too. Currently, Västerbotten has the lowest unemployment rate in the country.
For Skellefteå, this means more job opportunities for youngsters who want to enter the workforce directly after high school. For example, several new large stores have been established in the past year, and many openings have been announced in the restaurant sector.
– With Skellefteå's growth, the opportunity for young people to find jobs also increases, says Rönnblom.
–The sectors with the most personnel shortages today are transportation, healthcare, and industry, Eriksson continues.
In connection with Northvolt's establishment in Skellefteå, there was much talk about the risk that industrial companies would end up competing with each other for employees. However, the effect has rather been that the major impact has occurred in other sectors, such as the municipality and the county.
The situation in the north in general, and particularly in Skellefteå, has forced those seeking employees to reconsider their approach for the ideal candidate, with many recruiters now indicating a shortage of skills.
– Instead of looking for candidates with the perfect skills, the employer is seeing the person. Are you someone who can grow with us? The conditions are expanding. Companies are also finding individuals with skills who may not have had opportunities before, explains Rönnblom.
To sustain growth, immigration to the north is required, according to Arbetsförmedlingen.
"...significant opportunities for some of the vacant positions to be filled by unemployed individuals from outside Skellefteå under the right conditions."
Rönnblom says that they are currently working to, among other things, review the rules for reimbursement levels for travel expenses related to job interviews and similar matters.
–There's interest in moving here, but it requires quite a bit of information and is a long process. It's not a decision made overnight, she says, pointing out that since November of last year, Arbetsförmedlingen has a special website called 'Work in Northern Sweden,' with links to job vacancies in five municipalities.
– This information can spark interest in the area by planting a small seed in those that are curious, says Rönnblom.
Another aspect is that previously, there was much talk about the distances in the north – now, it's more about travel time.
– We often talk about everything being ten minutes away here. Those who move here often seek a different kind of life, says Rönnblom, who notes that many other municipalities currently experiencing growth are learning from Skellefteå.
– Skellefteå is a pioneer. The curiosity in how things are being done in Skellefteå is immense, both nationally and internationally. Many others around the world are in similar situations and are curious about what we're doing.