More than half of U.S. employers surveyed by the staffing firm Manpower Group last year said they were having trouble filling job openings because they couldn't find qualified workers. That’s a huge 38 percentage point jump from 2010, when only 14 percent said they were having trouble filling positions.
Not so fast. It turns out there's good reason to believe that companies have gotten spoiled and don't think they should have to look hard or offer the wages or benefits they once would have:
Steven J. Davis, a professor at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, regularly tracks “recruiting intensity per vacancy,” which is essentially a measure of how hard employers are looking for the right employees. He said recruiting intensity declined a lot at the onset of the financial crisis in 2008, and has only recovered partway as the economy has improved.
The same expert, though, suggests that there is a skills gap, with blue-collar men not having gotten the training to compete in this economy. That's something we hear a lot about, and there are likely cases where it applies. But not enough to explain this: "a much smaller share of working-age men, whatever their level of education, is working today than in past decades." And if you look at all men, not just ones who are working, "After adjusting for inflation, the typical male college graduate earned about 12 percent less in 2009 than his counterpart did in 1969."
If it's a skills gap, wouldn't we expect to see some group of people doing better, in the aggregate, than in the past? Companies thinking they shouldn't have to really try to attract desirable workers certainly isn't helping matters. But in the end you have to ask, who exactly do companies think would be qualified?