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A blog post by Mark Price, originally published at Third and State.

The view that people who lost a job due to the economy are lazy and shiftless dilettantes has spread from the editorial page of The Patriot-News to the newsroom with a particularly misleading story Monday.

The jobs are out there. Companies just can’t find the workers to fill them....Economists and business leaders point to a factor contributing to the pervasive disparity between available jobs and workers: attitude. Prospective work candidates simply want their cake — and on a silver platter. Some don’t want to commute, others want to work only the day shift, and others don’t want to take a job they feel is beneath them.

Dejesus gets creative with the presentation of facts, noting "3.2 million jobs remained vacant as of the end of July, even as 14 million Americans were jobless." How does the BLS report this number? "There were 3.2 million job openings on the last business day of July, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today." The reader of the Dejesus story is left with the impression that the problem is unfilled job openings.

Now for some math: divide 14 million unemployed workers by 3.2 million job openings and you get a ratio of 4.4 or a little over 4 unemployed workers for every job opening. Let's put that number in perspective by looking at it over time (figure below). When the job market is healthy, this ratio is well less than 2. The problem in the economy remains a shortage of job openings, not people unwilling to take those job openings.

Well perhaps there are lots of openings in manufacturing and no unemployed manufacturing workers? In the figure below, those little blue bars are number of job openings and the big red ones are unemployed workers.

Here is another misleading passage from the Dejesus story: 

Research shows the longer unemployment benefits are extended, the longer people rely on them. 'It used to be a social stigma,' [Penn State Harrisburg Management Professor Ray] Gibney said. 'Now with the economy the way it is, it’s not uncommon for people to be on unemployment benefits for a year.'

So you have a story, which stigmatizes thousands of unemployed Pennsylvanians and then quotes someone saying that there is no stigma to being unemployed? Is this satire?

Now, on to the research on unemployment benefits, which actually shows the effects of unemployment extensions on the amount of time people remain unemployed are very small (pdf). In fact, if you look across the states, the higher the unemployment rate in a state, the longer it takes people to find a job in that state. This is logic; the more people who are applying for each and every opening, the longer it will take them on average to find a new job.   

Now to be clear, it is not unusual, even in this economy, for some employers to have difficulty filling job openings. If the wages and working conditions being offered by a local employer are below what is on offer in the rest of the industry, workers with jobs are unlikely to leave their existing jobs to take those new openings. This limits the pool of available workers for new openings to new labor market entrants and the unemployed. And here you may see instances of skill mismatch with unemployed workers and new labor entrants lacking the skill necessary to fill the positions on offer. 

However, this is always the case, and there is NO rigorous evidence that this is a widespread problem in the economy. If the bulk of employers couldn't meet demand with their existing workers, they would begin competing for workers by bidding up wages. We are not seeing that.

Employers that proclaim to have persistent difficulty finding workers are likely either exceptionally bad problem solvers or not being forthright about the nature of their business model. An employer with high turnover that finds nobody wants to work for them signals more about the character of the employer than it does about the pool of available job applicants.

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Comment Preferences

  •  It's another excuse (6+ / 0-)

    to import HB-1 workers to push around. Because local workers would have too much "attytude," like wanting to form a union or something.

    "I want my Obama back!!!"

    by Pale Jenova on Tue Oct 04, 2011 at 07:12:28 AM PDT

  •  Job Openings and Unemployed Workers by Industry. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    That is a very interesting chart.

    And of the categories consider these two: Construction and Manufacturing.

    If those unemployed find jobs, does that not lead to increased business for all of the other industries? That is where a stimulus bill helps.

    But we need even more. We need fair labor laws since the American worker is now expected to compete with the Chinese worker; Lower wages, less benefits, less job security.

    This better be good. Because it is not going away.

    by DerAmi on Tue Oct 04, 2011 at 07:13:09 AM PDT

  •  What a Crock of Bullshit. They Need an Occupy nt (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Tue Oct 04, 2011 at 07:13:28 AM PDT

  •  A powerful counterpoint to all that (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    are the stats showing that the current economic downturn has absolutely benn most devastating to those with the least skills (i.e., youngish males with high school or less education).

    •  Get yer butt to ND. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Roadbed Guy

      The oil patch doesn't care about a college degree when you're running a backhoe or a welder.

      I am stunned that the ND boom is not being taken advantage of.  3% unemployment rate, thousands of job openings.  Okies get moving.

      -7.75 -4.67

      "Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose."

      There are no Christians in foxholes.

      by Odysseus on Tue Oct 04, 2011 at 08:57:06 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I have heard about this skills gap since the (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    middle 60s; looks as if those jobs which could never find skilled workers would not still be around doesn't it?

  •  it all bull (3+ / 0-)

    companies simply dont want to invest in workers anymore.  They want some magical applicant that is a ready fit to some made up HR description tossed on  

    They simply dont want to take someone with a nice wide range of compatible skills and train them.  They are afraid the people will simply leave in a few years, since they know they themselves have no loyalty, they reflect that employees must also not have loyalty.

    So its just a bunch of bullshit.

    The other problem I see, is in the job description, the list a skill set that is a particular niche, and for the few that actually have all those HR bullshit adjectives and background you are looking at one salary range, while the job offer isnt even within sight of it.

    I see it quite a bit, I see a job description in our field and we laugh saying, who the hell has all that, and if they do, your looking at 150-200k, meanwhile the job is offered at 60k, and they cry they cant find anyone.

    When in doubt always blame employers and banks, you'll be right way more than not.

    Bad is never good until worse happens

    by dark daze on Tue Oct 04, 2011 at 07:35:47 AM PDT

  •  WSJ - had a similar editorial (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    yesterday and I caught myself silently screaming at the paper while I was reading it at the Dr.'s office.

    Blame the victim - here.  It's the worker's fault.
    New Republican talking points - probably - because the old ones aren't working anymore (too much corporate profit being reported).

    Business will do everything they can - and spread the same lie in various places -  to  justify their deliberate choice not to act in this time of crisis.

    It just amazes me that business thinks they can claim this kind of stuff  - it is such a bunch of BS.  But there are some (sadly) who will actually believe this - cause it was in the newspaper.

    Thanks for the post -

  •  I hear this mantra about lack of workers, skilled (0+ / 0-)

    or otherwise and that makes my blood begin to boil.

    It's their excuse of a fake business model that is the problem.

    "You can't always get what you want; but if you try sometimes...." - Rolling Stones

    by LamontCranston on Tue Oct 04, 2011 at 08:58:29 AM PDT

  •  There's also the point that a job that is (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    unfilled on day "X" isn't necissarily a persistently unfilled job.  It could have had an employee in it that quit the day before, and be refilled by a new hire the day after.  

    Renewable energy brings national global security.      -6.25, -6.05

    by Calamity Jean on Thu Oct 06, 2011 at 09:54:19 AM PDT

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