The country’s unemployment crisis is because workers no longer have marketable skills prospective employers want, according to corporate-cozy politicians who repeat Big Business’s excuse for not hiring, despite record corporate profits.
Such a justification is another “blame-the-victim” attack rather than helping jobless Americans.
It’s not just Republicans. Moderate Democrat Bill Clinton at the DNC in August said, “There are already more than 3 million jobs open and unfilled in America, mostly because the people who apply for them don’t yet have the required skills to do them.”
But data out this summer showed that although the number of jobs is increasing and the economy is slowly improving, there still are far fewer jobs per worker available, with 3.4 jobless workers for every one job, according to the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), a non-profit, non-partisan think tank.
Elise Gould of EPI said, “The main cause of today’s persistent high unemployment is a broad-based lack of demand for workers – and not, as is often claimed, available workers lacking the skills needed for the sectors with job openings.”
Nevertheless, corporations whine about a shortage of U.S. workers and ignore the vast pools of discarded workers with high skills. The complaints are more of a pretext for increased off-shoring U.S. jobs and the importation of foreign workers to be exploited at low pay.
Meanwhile, this summer a man who’d earned a Masters degree decided to gauge the prospects for someone like him.
Eric Auld, a 26-year-old English teacher working as a temporary “adjunct” – a low-paid university position with few benefits increasingly common at U.S. colleges, unfortunately – conducted a personal experiment using Craigslist. Auld composed an ad for a fictitious administrative assistant job in New York, a full-time position paying $12-to-$14 an hour with health insurance, and he didn’t ask for details on applicants’ experience or education.
He said, “I published the ad at exactly 2:41 p.m. on Thursday. The first response came in at 2:45 – just four minutes later. Ten minutes later, there were 10 responses. Twenty minutes later, there were 56. An hour later: 164. Six hours: 431. At 2:41 p.m. on Friday – exactly 24 hours after I posted the ad – there were 653 responses in my brand new inbox.”
Qualifications from job-seekers for what essentially was a decent-paying clerical position might shock honest politicians, if not their Big Business buddies.
Continuing, Auld said that his conclusion was sobering: “Sixty-six percent of applicants held one or more degrees/certificates in higher education. No matter how much you want this job, there are 652 other people who want it, too.”
Besides the sheer numbers of people needing and seeking jobs, corporations have increasingly retreated from their in-house programs, while complaining about public schools.
Meanwhile, the advantages for getting advanced skills are fading and the risks of a technical education to acquire skilled trades are falling because of wage cuts.
Professor Emeritus Frank Emspak of the University of Wisconsin said, “You cannot de-link skills from the system needed to produce skilled workers and to sustain them. You can’t separate the issue of skills from employment security.”
EPI’s report notes, “For more than two out of three unemployed workers, there simply are no jobs.”
In the Washington Post, Ezra Klein wrote, “The solution, at least in the short term, is … the government steps in and buys things, or hands out tax cuts so consumers and businesses can buy things, or somehow helps consumers get out from under their housing debt. Once that happens and the economy is humming along, government backs off and pays down its own debts.
Klein continued, “The unemployment problem is the kind [politicians] could solve, or at least ameliorate, right now. And note that passing more stimulus doesn’t mean you can’t try and upgrade the skills of your labor force, too.”
Bill Knight is a freelance writer whose twice-weekly newspaper column is archived at billknightcolumn.blogspot.com. The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of Tri States Public Radio or Western Illinois University.