No, America Doesn't Have a Skilled Worker Shortage

Robert Samuelson thinks a prevailing explanation for unemployment is a lie
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted May 6, 2013 1:30 PM CDT
No, America Doesn't Have a Skilled Worker Shortage
In this Thursday, April 11, 2013 photo, people wait in line before the Dr. King Career Fair at the Empire State Plaza Convention Center in Albany, NY.   (AP Photo/Mike Groll)

Employers have been complaining for years now that the US is short of skilled workers, which is fast becoming the conventional wisdom explanation for persistently high unemployment. After all, there are currently more job openings than our current unemployment rates would suggest there should be. "There's only one problem with this story: It's mostly fiction," writes Robert Samuelson at the Washington Post. Most of these job postings are simply routine, the result of workers retiring or switching employers.

If there were really a skilled labor shortage, wages would be rising to lure workers away from the competition. Instead, manufacturing wages are up just 1% since April 2012, and computer programmer wages have been flat for a decade. The real explanation for high unemployment "almost certainly involves employers, not workers," Samuelson theorizes. Businesses are reluctant to hire, thanks to some combination of skepticism about the recovery, ObamaCare raising labor costs, and a hunger for higher profit margins. "Today's crucial scarcity is not skills. It's confidence." Click for Samuelson's full column. (Read more skilled labor stories.)

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