As the economy slowly starts to regain some of the jobs lost in the recession, some businesses are struggling to find the qualified workers they need, despite the continuing high level of unemployment. When jobs go unfilled because employers can't find qualified people to fill them, it slows the overall speed of economic recovery.
Manufacturers in particular seem to be struggling to find workers. After cutting millions of jobs nationwide during the recession, some manufacturers who are hiring again report difficulty finding enough workers, especially those with specialized skills. Nationally, the number of hires in manufacturing was running at about the same level as openings in 2011, suggesting a relative shortage of manufacturing workers at the national level.
On the surface, there are plenty of unemployed workers in Oregon for the number of jobs available. In the fall of 2011, there were 30,400 vacancies in Oregon, at the same time there were 175,100 people without jobs and looking for work and the unemployment rate was 9.3 percent. That's nearly a six-to-one ratio of unemployed to vacancies. So how can businesses be struggling to find enough workers?
One reason is that the industries and occupations that need workers may not match up with the education or experience of recent graduates and the unemployed.Businesses hiring for some occupations and in some industries may also experience continual difficulty finding workers if the conditions of the job - such as long hours, high stress, or low pay relative to a similar job elsewhere - are unfavorable. There's also a structural consideration: there could be available jobs in Medford, but qualified workers in La Grande or Klamath Falls may not be able to sell their homes to move for those jobs, even if they wanted to do so.
The Oregon Employment Department's Fall 2011 Job Vacancy Survey results show that the occupations with the most long-term vacancies often require postsecondary training, an associate degree, or a four-year or advanced degree to be qualified for the job. In other words, many of the occupations that take a longer time to fill require specialized training, so they can't immediately be filled by just anyone who is unemployed.
In addition to educational requirements, there is a desire by employers to hire experienced and trained applicants. This could be contributing to their struggle to find enough workers. Dr. Peter Cappelli of Wharton's Center for Human Resources describes this as a Catch-22 situation for workers - "to get a job, you have to have that job already."
Employers with difficulty finding qualified workers can take steps to attract more skilled applicants. Suggestions offered by Dr. Cappelli and others include: increase recruiting intensity; expand employee training; increase wages and benefits; and partner with education providers.