The business owner’s version of “the dog ate my homework” these days is “we’re not hiring because we can’t find workers with the skills we need.” Various business lobby groups like the National Federation of Independent Business and the National Association of Manufacturers are pushing that line hard, trying to pin continuing high unemployment on the alleged suckitude of American workers and justify continuing to refer to themselves as job creators even as they create damn few actual jobs. But the facts just don’t support it.
Mike Konczal rounds up research showing that job recruitment intensity on the part of businesses is low. During the recession, businesses didn’t have to try much at all to get a slew of ridiculously overqualified applicants for any job, and they got used to that. Now that things are picking up a little, employers are still spoiled, expecting to be able to snap their fingers and get what they want. And if that’s not the way it works out, they’re content to just sit around waiting and lamenting the lack of qualified applicants, rather than actually making an effort to recruit workers:
What does it mean for recruitment intensity to fall? This recruitment intensity, according to the research, “is shorthand for the other instruments employers use to influence the pace of new hires – e.g., advertising expenditures, screening methods, hiring standards, and the attractiveness of compensation packages. These instruments affect the number and quality of applicants per vacancy, the speed of applicant processing, and the acceptance rate of job offers.” This margin for trying to fill jobs is ignored, or assumed away, in most of the major economic models of unemployment and hiring.
So basically, it’s like this: business puts up a couple halfhearted ads offering $10 an hour and no benefits for a job requiring substantial skill and training, then waits for the applications to pour in. Only now, there are some applications but not thousands of desperate people begging for the job. The business takes its sweet time looking through those applications and getting back to people, some of whom may by now have found equivalently good jobs. Business then complains to reporters that there just aren’t enough qualified applicants for the jobs it’s trying so hard to fill. Reporter dutifully publishes article blaming unemployment on unemployed people.
Meanwhile, people who really do need jobs are left hanging, waiting for interviews, waiting to hear about jobs for which they’ve interviewed, wondering why the jobs that are out there pay so little considering the qualifications required. They’re waiting, struggling, hoping to hear. But the owners of the companies are too busy explaining that their homework was eaten by dogs to actually hire anyone.
This blog originally appeared in Daily Kos Labor on July 17, 2012. Reprinted with permission.
About the Author: Laura Clawson is labor editor at Daily Kos. She has a PhD in sociology from Princeton University and has taught at Dartmouth College. From 2008 to 2011, she was senior writer at Working America, the community affiliate of the AFL-CIO.