It was reported last week that the U.S. economy added 80,000 jobs in October and the nation’s unemployment rate edged down slightly to 9%. After the announcement TV commentators debated whether this was truly good news.
But if you look beyond the headlines, the Bureau of Labor Statistics also reported that the unemployment rate was just 4.4% for “management, professional, and related occupations”. That’s a figure that most economists would consider “full employment.” In the high technology sector, for example, there are thousands of job vacancies at many companies but the problem is finding individuals with the proper skills to fill the openings.
This employment imbalance highlights the skills mismatch that permeates the current labor market. Technical or specialized jobs go unfilled while less skilled jobs have fierce competition. If not addressed, the long-term effect of such an environment will be a further polarization of work: those who have the right skills and training will prosper and those who don’t will suffer.
I think we’ve collectively just begun to realize the magnitude of this problem and its long-term consequences. The answer to this vexing issue and putting people back to work is structural and multifold, and includes improving educational opportunities for young adults and increasing company training programs, and for companies themselves – tapping into the flexible workforce to get the expert resources they need.
The New World of Work demands specialized, highly competent people – whatever their craft. We need to prepare both workers and employers for this new reality.