Yes, There’s a Skills Deficit, But How About Just Filling Some Open Jobs?

This page is part of the Kensington partnership I mentioned above.

So the unemployment rate went up a little in May, from 7.5 percent to 7.6 percent. The Bureau of Labor Statistics deems this increase as “essentially unchanged.”

That’s despite 175,000 more people working. How does this math work?

I’ve written about the how the unemployment rate in the U.S. is determined here and here. But here’s another slice of data to consider: It’s the number of job openings.

Some curious numbers

The Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) published each month alongside the unemployment numbers, shares really interesting data each month. Along with the data about quits and hires, are data about job openings.

It’s fascinating. Really.jolts-june-2013

So, although there were 3,757,000 job openings in April (down 118,000 from March, or “little changed” as the BLS describes it) the difference between hires and total separations was just 146,000 month over month. So on the surface, a net of 175,000 new jobs is curious.

More curious is matching the number of job openings to the number of unemployed people by industry. Economist Heidi Shierholz published a piece for the Economic Policy Institute last week that shows in stark relief that unemployed workers still significantly outnumber job openings in every major sector.

Based on analysis of the JOLTS and other data, the following chart is a snapshot of current job openings numbers by industry and the numbers of unemployed workers in those industries. It’s rather eye popping and raises lots of questions.unemployed-far-outstrips-available-jobs-june-2013

A wealth of data points

Ouch! So think about this data when you read about employers not being able to find the right skills for their openings.

Is it really skills they can’t find? Or something else? How hard are they looking? What BFOQs are they using that overlook millions of job seekers?

Curious, yes?

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There are so many data points around employment — job openings, quits, hires, workers, unemployed workers, discouraged job seekers, skills, education levels, education spending. The data points come from bonafide sources (like the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce), quasi bonafide sources with bias (like the Economic Policy Institute, SHRM, U.S. Chamber of Commerce and AARP), vendor sponsored research and white papers, and millions of blogs and other media sources.

Lots of sources. Lots of data points. Lots of analysis. Lots of conflicting findings and conclusions.

Matching jobs with available talent

The best we can do is be proactive in finding sources that are transparent about their data and analysts who seem unbiased. And then be persistent in looking at all sides of an issue and smart in believing what you read.

On the issues of skills, jobs and unemployment, though, it seems that we don’t know what we’re doing. We may not even really know what the truth is.

Except this: we’ve got to do better at matching job openings with available talent. It’s clear that we haven’t figured this out — not government, not business/employers, not education providers, not workers, not vendors, not recruiters.

Forget the skills deficit. What about just filling the open the jobs?

This originally appeared on China Gorman’s blog at ChinaGorman.com.

China Gorman is a successful global business executive in the competitive Human Capital Management (HCM) sector. She is a sought-after consultant, speaker and writer bringing the CEO perspective to the challenges of building cultures of humanity for top performance and innovation, and strengthening the business impact of Human Resources.

Well known for her tenure as CEO of the Great Place to Work Institute, COO and interim CEO of the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), and President of Lee Hecht Harrison, China works with HCM organizations all over the world to enhance their brands and their go-to-market strategies. Additionally, she serves on the Executive Committee of the Board of Jobs for America’s Graduates as well as the Advisory Boards of Elevated Careers, the Workforce Institute at Kronos, and WorldBlu. Addtionally, she chairs the Globoforce WorkHuman Advisory Board and the Universum North America Board. China is the author of the popular blog Data Point Tuesday, and is published and frequently quoted in media properties like Fortune, TLNT, Huffington Post, Inc., Fast Company, U.S. News & World Report and many others.

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