Believe those who are seeking the truth. Doubt those who find it. Andre Gide

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Jobs Go Unfilled Despite High Unemployment

Came across this interesting article today: Jobs Go Unfilled Despite High Unemployment. Here is the opening snippet:

For the 15 million Americans who can’t find jobs the labor market is like an awful game of musical chairs. There are many more players than there are available seats.

Yet at Extend Health, a Medicare health insurance exchange firm in Salt Lake City, the problem is just the opposite—a growing number of chairs to fill and not enough people with the skills to fit the jobs. “It seems like an oxymoron in this environment that you can somehow be challenged to find great workers,” CEO Bryce Williams admits, almost sheepishly.

Extend Health’s call center workers help retirees navigate the process of signing up for commercial Medicare Advantage and drug coverage plans. For this fall’s Medicare Enrollment season, the firm will need close a thousand workers. The ideal candidate is over 40, with a background of financial services in order to qualify for insurance licensing.

“They need to be able to pass the state of Utah exam, which is not easy, “he explains. “They need to have a background in comparing the financial metrics of trying to help someone compare and analyze and give great advice.”

Williams has hire a recruiter, plans to roll out billboards along Interstate-15 in Utah, and is now looking at establishing a new call center out of state where the firm can find more people to train and hire.
“We like being in Utah but at a certain point you max out on the total pool of people that you can tap," Williams says. “So, we're going to have to look at other states.” Part of Williams’ problem is that his business is in a sector that’s facing a skills gap.

A Tight Labor Market For Skilled Jobs

Overall labor demand softened in February, but online ads for computer science jobs were up more than 15 percent from January, according to The Conference Board Help Wanted Online Data Series (HWOL).
While there are more than twenty-five job seekers for every open position in fields like construction, in technology, health and science-related jobs the exact inverse is true.

For computer science jobs and skilled health care practitioners, there were just over three ads for every job seeker in February. For life sciences jobs like medical science researchers and chemists, the ratio was 2 to 1.
"It’s the equivalent of a seller’s market in real estate,” says Jeanne Shu, HWOL Project Coordinator. While those occupations are seeing a lot of growth, employers are scrambling to find available qualified workers.
“If they can't find the right person with the right skill set they'll hold out longer for them."

I figure that there's something more than "deficient demand" going on here. But maybe that's just me...

Update: March 13, 2011

Some more interesting anecdotal evidence here: Factories having trouble finding workers.
(I thank Mike Ward for the link.)


  1. In an increasingly specialized labor market, the aggregate "unemployment rate" is increasingly meaningless.

    Also - state licensing to artificially reduce employment anyone?

  2. You got anything more than anecdotes eh?

  3. I've known quite a number of senior IT people to leave the field. They get sick of the stress and hours and the constant implicit threat that jobs and whole labs will get outsourced. One friend of mine was thrilled to walk before she got laid off. A lab manager! Her boss said - I didn't think YOU would leave.

    Silly boss. Any sensible person would leave.

    It's a strange profession now. A huge section of it, the entry level, doesn't exist in the USA, or has shriveled. Then there are these higher level jobs that are mad stress. These openings you write of, many of them have requirements pages long.

    It will be interesting to see what happens with the jobs numbers. From my perspective, I see a job market broken on purpose, by ideologues and corporate cost cutters. We'll see, won't we.

  4. A company in Utah does not make a national trend. Here's other information that counters what HWOL has to say. These are from the National Employment Law Project (

    "In the private sector, there is a striking imbalance between where the recession’s job losses occurred, and where the growth of the past 12 months was concentrated:

    - Lower-wage industries constituted 23 percent of job loss, but fully 49 percent of recent growth

    - Mid-wage industries constituted 36 percent of job loss, and 37 percent of recent growth

    -Higher-wage industries constituted 40 percent of job loss, but only 14 percent of recent growth

    The current recovery looks worse than the “jobless” recovery of the 2001 recession, on several fronts:

    - After a year of positive job growth, the private sector after the 2001 recession had recovered almost half (47 percent) of the jobs it had lost. By contrast, to date the private sector has recovered only 14
    percent of the jobs it lost during 2008 and 2009.

    - The early job growth following the 2001 recession was more balanced than the early job growth following the 2008 recession, with significantly more growth in higher-wage industries."

    The people at NELP conclude: "These findings do suggest that for unemployed workers, as well as for those seeking to move up in the
    labor market or entering it for the first time, the current distribution of job opportunities has deteriorated, compared to before the recession."

  5. Main Street:

    An interesting set of statistics. They are perfectly consistent with the notion that the past recession delivered (or was possibly caused by) a severe "structural" blow to the economy. On the other hand, it is also consistent with other interpretations too. Thanks for sharing.

  6. I don’t necessarily reject the idea of a skills mismatch contributing to unemployment, but I do return to this powerful question from the Krugman-De Long corner of the Internet: where are the rising wages?

    I know what a labor shortage looks like, having had the poor form to graduate with my own Computer Science degree in the Mid-Nineties: calls from recruiters, nice salary raises every year, endless headaches from turnover as colleagues kept leaving for bigger and better offers. Anyone who could fog a mirror and say the words “Visual Basic” could get work–good work. My own degree came two years later than it should have, because I couldn’t resist the money from working a full-time job when I ought to have been studying.

    So what’s comparable in the world today? I hear anecdotes about companies who “can’t find the right workers,” but then you dig a bit and it seems like there’s always some catch, like they want experienced machinists and electricians for nine dollars an hour or something. That’s not a shortage. I don’t know anything about this Utah situation, for example, but I don’t follow why, if there is such a burning need and such a wonderful opportunity for this kind of firm, they aren’t putting people on salary just to study for this state exam, contingent on obtaining certification within two months–that kind of thing.

    I hear this Extend Health fellow talking about billboards, recruiters, and so forth, but what I _don't_ hear him talking about is the one thing that ought to occur first of all to any economist: OFFER MORE MONEY.

    It sounds suspiciously like he's just bellyaching about a price he doesn’t care for. The firm thinks they ought to be able to get an infinite supply of workers at fire-sale prices, because they misread the market. Perhaps a great many firms are caught up in the same error of analysis. It can happen (see, for instance, the years 1999, 2006, etc.). A firm that really believes in their business model _ought_ to realize that they could make a killing by getting just one step out in front of their competitors, snatch up the best workers at prices that are still below equilibrium–just not as low as management had hoped for–and build up a commanding market lead before everyone else works out the game.

    But again, they don’t seem to be doing this–and whatever anyone tells you, what B-schools teach first, last, and always is herd behavior. It’s easy to nod your head and look thoughtful when Warren Buffet says, “Be fearful when others are greedy, and greedy when others are fearful,” but how many executives are really capable of it?

    Anyway, that's just what occurs to me. Always willing to be proven wrong.



  7. This is one of the truth which is bothered many peoples. I am also take it very seriously. Some damn things are causes for that.

  8. Following on from what @Craig and @MainStreetMuse said in previous comments, the reporting of unfilled jobs despite the recession is in fact a global rather than a national trend.

    I've looked at press, radio interviews and blog posts from the UK, USA and Ireland and after a while, the stories start becoming too familiar.

    I've blogged about it here if anyone is interested


  9. I have a hard time believing that out of the 20% unemployed in the U.S. that no one is qualified.

    1. I do not believe anyone ever made that statement. The issue is whether the qualified are aware of where their best job matches are, whether they are willing to move, to retrain, to lower their wages, etc., to consummate those matches.

  10. Hi David,
    I understand your point but if jobs are available then why are so many people living in tent cities. I feel so bad for these people as Dr. Gary Null went to a tent city in NJ and people are freezing to death..literally.
    Are you for the federal reserve or not for the current federal reserve David?

  11. I feel badly for those people too and I think there should be programs in place to help them. I'm not sure that many of them are employable though. You could always try to employ them yourself and see whether they are worth the wages you pay. Not sure what you mean by the last question.

  12. David, if i had the means i would employ them myself. But i don't have the means. Are you aware of the "new world order" and the illuminati? The Federal Reserve is run by the illuminati and they want to bring down the economic system in the U.S. They are doing this intentionally because they want their "new world order" ..which is a one world government and a global bank. It's a plan for world domination. the current unemployment rate is really about 20% and in two years, these bankers want the unemployment rate to be around 40% so that they can bring us to our knees so they can provide the solution..which is their "new world order". They create the crisis and then present the solution. it's a rigged game. I really recommend going to youtube and typing in new world order and Alex Jone's movies such as the "end game" and "obama deception" to see how these bankers are conspiring against the american people. People are not waking up in time. If you don't believe the research. Thanks for your responses David. It's good to see that you are open to responding.