With the May 2017 jobs report, unemployment officially hit its lowest rate since 2001, down to 4.3% nationally.
That’s the result of not only more jobs but also a slowdown in job growth. The credit union industry, however, might be bucking that latter trend.
As of March 31, 2017, credit unions employed 296,018 individuals. That is 2.6% more than at this point last year and 15.3% higher than the 256,729 the industry reported in the first quarter of 2012.
The uptick in employment rosters mirrors another healthy trend: growing membership. There now are nearly 110 million credit union members in America. That's a 4.4% year-over-year increase and a 16.7% increase over the past five years.
Across the credit union industry, institutions are turning to technology, such as interactive teller machines, to boost productivity and efficiency. There is a common misconception that technology is accelerating the replacement of employees, that machines are supplanting the roles and positions of branch employees.
Upon closer inspection of credit union employment data, it does appear that a shift is happening. But it's not the one outlined above.
In 2012, 87.9% of all credit union employees were full-time and 12.1% were part-time. As of March 31, 2017, the share of full-time employees is up 2.9 percentage points. Over the past five years, the number of full-time employees increased 44,661 (19.8%), wheras the number of part-time employees declined 3,622 (-11.6%).
That might reflect the changing role of credit union front-line staff from strictly transactional to more advisory.
Although many members want the option to perform seamless transactions with the touch of a button, human interaction is still highly valued. In fact, it’s become conventional wisdom that when it comes to specific financial challenges and questions, face-to-face conversations should take place to best serve a member’s needs.
CreditUnions.com has focused frequently on individual credit unions that are re-creating the branch environment and the roles of the people working at those locations. In fact, here's an article from the end of May: "It’s Not A Branch, It’s a Learning Lab."
The emergence of the universal employee, as cross-trained member service specialists are frequently called, could be helping move the needle toward full-time staff and overall growth of the credit union movement’s workforce. Only time will tell.