2.4 Million Open Jobs. 10 Percent Unemployment. What Gives? (It May Not Be What You Think.)

How’s that for the world’s longest headline?

Okay, now down to business. Check it. Analysts have been saying that the reason nearly 10 percent of Americans are unemployed (and if you count underemployed and discouraged workers, the picture looks much, much worse) while 2.8 million jobs go unfilled is because those 2.4 million jobs are for very specific jobs requiring highly skilled or specially trained workers. A guy working the assembly line at GM can’t go into healthcare or even became a dude installing solar panels..not without training.

And that is part of it.

In August there were 514,000 jobs open in education and healthcare, by far the most openings of industry. But that leaves almost two million jobs in other industries.

Peter Cappelli at HRE Online argues that something else is going on with those other two million openings–nothing to do with a shortage of skills.

“The labor market is truly a market that responds to supply and demand…When candidates get scarce, requirements slip; when they are plentiful, they rise. Employers can afford to get picky.”

First of all, employers can afford to take their time, Cappelli writes. “Suppose you needed a date for the prom, and your fairy godmother suddenly lined up 12 very attractive candidates, all of whom wanted to go with you.

Would you just grab the first one in line and go? Of course not. You’d check them all out, and the more there were, the longer it would take to do so,” hence the number of “open” jobs are just jobs that hiring managers are taking their time with.

Second, the jobs that are remaining open are rarely entry-level, he says. They’re specific work-based skills. Knowledge of a specific industry or a specific program—something that would have been learned on the job. He argues that current hiring practices which de-emphasize promoting from within forces companies to go to their competitors, but “when everyone wants to do this — poof! — such candidates are hard to find.”

The solution would be to go back to developing talent internally: grooming a promising employee with training and development opportunities until s/he’s ready to be promoted to the next level.

But (and this isn’t Cappelli, but our observations) employers are leery of this because they’re afraid that employee will just jump ship and go to a higher-paying competitor.

How do we solve this dilemma?

Publish date: October 15, 2009 https://dev.adweek.com/digital/2-4-million-open-jobs-10-percent-unemployment-what-gives-it-may-not-be-what-you-think/ © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT