Downtown Indy hotel good barometer of employment picture

(WISH Photo/Brett Bensley)

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – Nationally, the unemployment rate now sits at 5.9 percent, the lowest it’s been since 2008.  But, beyond the numbers, is the job market really improving? A good barometer can be found in downtown Indianapolis.

All you have to do is look for the big blue building on West Street. Because at the JW Mariott, when it comes to jobs, they offer a little bit of everything.  With more than 1,000 rooms and thousands of guests to care for, the JW Marriott in downtown Indianapolis requires a big staff.

Phil Ray, General Manager of the downtown JW, says the hotel employees about 800 people. From entry, to mid-level to upper management to service to technical and everything in between.

Ray has been in the hotel business for 30 years.

“The beautiful thing about our business is that if you have a great attitude and a willingness to work and learn, you know you can start at an entry-level job and we’re very good at promoting people from within to allow them to build careers,” he says.

Ray remembers how tough it was back in 2008 during the height of the recession. In those days, he says, there was a big pool of potential employees from which to choose. Not anymore.

“We are definitely seeing that there are less people coming to work, looking for opportunities, so it’s becoming more and more competitive to find those best associates that are going to fit the workforce that we’re looking for,” he says.

Ray says finding a good associate is just the first step.

“So, from our perspective, we’re always trying to offer beyond just the pay. It’s really the career opportunity, the great work environment and those type of things to try and differentiate ourselves against the competition, because it is. You’re now trying to fight for those associates to come and work for you,” he says.

And Ray says, business at the JW is back near peak levels, which means more jobs.

“So we feel pretty good about the future, which is great. So business still looks strong for the near future,” he says.

Right now, Ray says the JW has about 40 to 50 job openings. And while the hotel business generally has a higher turnover rate than most businesses, he says there’s no question it’s tougher to find and keep employees now, than it’s been for years. Based on future business, he says it’s likely that trend will continue.

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