I have a quibble with this article at the Harvard Business Review, “The Great Recession Drastically Changed the Skills Employers Want”:
In recent research we investigate how the demand for skills changed over the Great Recession (2007-09). Using nearly all electronically posted job vacancies in 2007 and 2010–2015 collected by the analytics company Burning Glass Technologies, as well as geographic differences in economic conditions, we establish a new fact: the skill requirements of job ads increased in metro areas that suffered larger employment shocks in the Great Recession, relative to the same areas before the shock and to other areas that experienced smaller shocks. Our estimates imply that ads posted in a hard-hit metro area are about 5 percentage points (16%) more likely to contain education and experience requirements and about 2–3 percentage points (8‒12%) more likely to include requirements for analytical and computer skills.
Moreover, the vast majority of this “upskilling” persists through the end of our sample in 2015. That is, even while most measures of local labor-market strength had converged back to pre-recession levels, differences in advertised skill demands remain. This holds true even when we statistically control for the availability of skilled labor and the composition of ads across firms and occupations. In fact, we find that the same firms that upskilled by 2010 drive the persistence later in our sample period – the companies that reacted to the recession by looking for more skilled workers were still pursuing that strategy five years later.
My quibble is that they’re neglecting what is to me an obvious reality. Managers do things for reasons. They don’t just do them in a sort of Brownian motion or random walk. If managers are convinced that there is a reliable and unending supply of low-end workers or of workers with higher skills than present workers at lower pay (or they can use the claimed need for higher skills as a pretext for replacing present workers with workers who will work for lower wages), they will do so.
But such convictions are based on politics and policies and may be reversed. Then they’ll do something else. Managers may not be emotionless robots or perfectly rational but they’re not single-celled organisms or mindless particles, either.
The question that I wish were being considered but no one seems to be is why did so many companies, particularly large companies, have so many nonproductive employees previous to 2007 whom they continued to employ? I think that’s the $64 trillion question.