Lack of Jobs, Not Lack of Skill

Whether an economy is recovering from a recession or simply maintaining stability, one of the most scrutinized areas is the labor market. This division of the economy always seems to be a topic of conversation when it comes to political reform. The attention surrounding the labor market, though, has only become more magnified since the recovery from the Great Recession started.


The common thought is that following the Great Recession, recovery in the labor market has lagged due to workers not having the right skills. However, upon investigation this does not appear to be true. The figure below examines this claim by demonstrating the number of job openings per industry in the month of January 2015. We find that there are more unemployed workers than available jobs in practically every industry.

Screen Shot 2015-03-29 at 3.08.17 PM

The notable exception in the figure above is the health care and social assistance sector. Other sectors have not been as fortunate. Construction, for example, still has nearly six unemployed workers for every job opening.

In summation, the numbers and figure provided indicate that the main problem is merely a lack of demand for workers, rather than the presented argument that workers lack the required skills for a particular job industry.

–Pat Burpee

5 thoughts on “Lack of Jobs, Not Lack of Skill

  1. madisonsmith17

    This directly relates to what we had discussed in class. Many times during, and in this case after a recession, what we are seeing in unemployment is a decrease in the finding rate. This is shown here by the larger numbers of unemployed workers in an industry compared to job openings in that industry.

  2. ericafleming

    This post was very interesting! It surprises me that there are numbers that can be calculated definitively about workers in each of these sectors, because I feel that there could be some ambiguity with these data. I wonder how or if these calculations encompass workers that fall into multiple catergories/industries or choose to pursue jobs in other industries where they may not be technically trained to do so? As well, I wonder if there is something to be said about over-qualified or over-specialized workers.

  3. ddowen17

    Mankiw stated that there is an increase in the gap between the demand for skilled and unskilled laborers, which ultimately causes a larger gap in wages. Do you think that the lack of jobs is due to a decrease in demand for unskilled laborers? This might be able to explain why health care is an exception in the data, because most workers in the health care profession have many years of schooling and degrees. Also, construction is a common market to have high unemployment because once a particular job is completed, most workers get laid off, especially in the winter, and then receive unemployment benefits.

  4. johnturner27

    Much of this probably has a lot to do with other factors besides skill such as location. It is not only a mismatch in skills that can cause structural unemployment there are various reasons.

  5. Victor Matheson

    Just in terms of presenting data, including a ratio of unemployed to openings would be most helpful when comparing between sectors with a lot of workers and those with just a little.


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