The Unemployment Conundrum from Karla Porter


Would you believe that in January of this year there were just about enough jobs available in the US to employ every infant, child and adult in Chicago, the 3rd largest city with a population of just under 3,000,000?

Depending on your situation, it could be cause for merriment and celebration and send you lunging for your résumé, or feelings of inadequacy for not being able to find one of them despite your relentless search. In either case, it would at least leave you with a glimmer of hope that recovery is well under way, right?

Actually, it’s not really very exciting news at all. Despite the worst recession in the past 30 years, the number of available jobs in the U.S. has remained fairly steady with roughly 2.7 million jobs available for the past 12 months.

So, what’s the deal? How can there be so many available jobs with employment at 9.7 percent?

Apart from the 1.2 million discouraged workers not currently looking for work because they believe no jobs are available for them, here’s a thought from Jonas Prising, President of Manpower North America, “From our research it is clear that across the country employers are experiencing a mismatch between the talent their businesses need and the skills and abilities potential employees possess.”

Talent and opportunity don’t always match up logistically. Some companies do poor labor pool research during the site selection process. Others are not willing to source talent nationally or pay for relocation. Some companies have unbecoming reputations and no one wants to work there. Other jobs have such high turnover companies never take the postings for them off the job boards.

Many of the available jobs are for high demand hard to fill positions like engineers, engineering technicians, accountants, mechanics and IT staff. We simply do not have enough people trained in these occupations to fill the need. Maybe not enough people are interested in these careers?

On the other hand, occupations with the most openings are cashiers, retail salespersons, waiters and waitresses, customer service representatives and registered nurses. Without doubt these are grueling, stand on your feet, people in your face, physical jobs. With the exception of nursing, they are not generally well paid occupations. They’re burn and churn jobs, the kinds that never fall off job boards.

Sometimes due to personal circumstances no matter how much you would like to interview for the bank teller position in that small town in the Flickertail State, the salary doesn’t justify consideration of trying to sell your home in New Jersey in a flat real estate market and leaving the people you love, even though the cost of living would be less there.


Karla Porter is Director of Workforce Development and Human Resources for a mid-size metro chamber of business and industry where she fights the good fight trying to ensure talent meets opportunity in her community. She blogs at Karla Porter Human Capital & New Media.

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