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Unemployment, Labor Rates and Your Janitorial Service

BMS Building Maintenance Services - Mike Doherty

By Mike Doherty, President, BMS

How Unemployment and Labor Rates Impact Your Janitorial Service

The good news for our country is that the unemployment rate is hovering at historic low levels.  In February 2019, the rate was 3.8% and the number of unemployed persons had decreased by 300,000.  By contrast, the rate in February *2017 was 4.3%.  America’s companies need workers.  This is even more good news.  Wage rates at the end of *2018 increased 4.16% over the end of 2018.  On average, workers are making more money as the labor market tightens.  This is the law of supply and demand in action.  Companies are growing.  They need people.  Hence, people cost more than they did when jobs were scarce.

As companies grow and occupy real estate, that space needs to be serviced.  This means the cleaning industry needs to hire more janitors.  This is now a good news/bad news scenario.

Wage Impact on Turnover and Quality

Like most low level or entry jobs, cleaning is not sexy, and it’s hard work.  However, it is essential to other businesses and their day-to-day operations.

BMS Building Maintenance Services - Janitorial

Yet in many markets, cleaners make minimum wage or slightly higher.  *At the end of 2017, the average janitorial wage was $12.02/hour. This figure includes high wage, unionized markets such as New York, Boston, Chicago, etc.  The majority of the cleaning population makes considerably less.  We see most non-union positions paying between $9 – $10/hour.  This is below the poverty level.

Increasingly, customers expect cleaning staff to be trained in Green Cleaning, Building Safety and Customer Relations.  They also expect to see the same faces in their space every day.  Training and retaining the staff is an expense borne by the contractor.  When Wal-Mart, Costco and McDonalds are paying $13 – $15/hour, contractors lose staff and need to invest in new employees.  So in most cases, that is just lost money.

Quality Cleaning Is Not a Commodity

Janitorial contractors and staff provide a service that directly affects the health and well-being of office workers and school children.  The work is hard and almost always unnoticed until it goes wrong.

A high-level cleaning service is certainly not a commodity.  It is a service that requires trained, motivated personnel.  Like many other situations, “you get what you pay for”.

Smart, informed businesses recognize this.  We are hopeful that this becomes the norm, not the exception.

Contact us for more information.


*U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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