Cheap Talk

by Dave Schuler on July 22, 2014

There’s an article at Fiscal Times that gets dangerously close to the truth about the supposed lack of skilled workers:

“The story that there is a structural mismatch between the needs of expanding employers and the skills of the people waiting on the sideline…is based mainly on anecdotal evidence from individual companies,” he said.

When business owners complain about having difficulty filling jobs, Burtless said, “What’s always surprised me is the business journalists who decline to ask the obvious follow-on question: Have you tried offering them more money? Better benefits?”

“It’s cheap to say there is a mismatch in skills. It’s a little more expensive to pay workers more,” he said.

I think we have yet to come to terms with the implications of the prevalence of two career families. That brings up an interesting subject. What policies are the best during periods of great social change? What if we enter a period in which society is always in a state of upheaval?

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

... July 22, 2014 at 8:34 am

I’ll always remember the company head saying his copy couldn’t find aerospace engineers in the US so he needed to get them from India, when his company was trying to fill positions in St Augustine FL. That’s about 120 miles from the Kennedy Space Center, which was shedding workers, including aerospace engineers, at the time.

... July 22, 2014 at 8:43 am

I will note that the creation of 1.2 million jobs a year is hailed as something nearly miraculous. If one read the article by itself one would calculate there are only about 94 million people working in the US economy.

TastyBits July 22, 2014 at 9:47 am

When employers really need workers, skill sets become more flexible. I have worked on projects where we would use engineers from different disciplines. If we could not find a mechanical engineer, we would put a civil engineer into the position. We could fill in the gaps on the job.

You probably cannot train the pipefitter to be a master machinist, but you can train him on AutoCAD for pipe design.

Guarneri July 22, 2014 at 8:21 pm

I think, once again, I must point out the difference between large corporate and middle market.

I can’t speak to large corporate, but in the middle market finding good people is very difficult. And a few extra sheckles or bennies won’t fix it. There is a legitimate “people finding” problem. And we offer equity, the golden goose if things work out.

Dave Schuler July 22, 2014 at 8:45 pm

I was unaware that the level of employees for which companies are seeking H-1B visas was that at which equity stakes were typically offered.

Andy July 24, 2014 at 1:01 am

Dave,

Could you expand on your comment about two-career families? I see issues there as well.

Dave Schuler July 24, 2014 at 6:53 am

Sure. 40-50 years ago if Dad had to move for work Dad moved for work and everybody went with him. Consider some scenarios nowadays. If Dad gets laid off, the family might be able to get by on Mom’s earnings alone. That makes Dad less likely to consider moving for work. It certainly would discourage moving just to look and/or introduce even more instability in relationships than might otherwise be the case.

Mom now potentially has her own career to worry about. She’s less likely to want to move for Dad’s work than might otherwise be the case.

steve July 24, 2014 at 3:46 pm

Yup. I recently hired a new female doc. She has been with us for a year now. Her husband has still not found work, but he really doesn’t need to work for income. Maybe for his sanity, but that is different.

Steve

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