Monday, August 9, 2010

Some employers having trouble filling jobs

Today's WSJ features a front page article on the difficulty some employers are having with filling vacant positions.  The article touches on a wide range of situations including truck stops, machine shops, and an airline (full disclosure -- you have to move to Dubai).  With unemployment twice as high now as it was three or four years ago, some employers are reporting no increase in the number of applicants when they have openings. 

Part of the explanation -- some of these jobs require very specialized skills that have traditionally been in short supply and nothing has happened to increase the supply.  Unemployed construction workers and bank executives are not in a good position to become skilled machinists.  If you take a sectoral view of the labor market and acknowledge that we have undergone a permanent decline in construction, auto, real estate, and financial services jobs, there also will be a mismatch between the skills of the unemployed and the skills demanded by employers.

The article also cites two other forces that are limiting applications: unemployment insurance (UI) benefits and underwater mortgages.  Workers will not apply for positions that pay below what they receive in UI benefits.  The unemployed can now collect UI for 2 years, almost twice as long compared to previous recessions.  The weak housing market is undermining geographic mobility; more people would be leaving states with poor employment prospects (Nevada) for those with better ones (Utah) if they could sell their houses.  

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