Sunday, May 15, 2011

"Dirty Jobs" Mike Rowe Testimony on Employment Issues

Last week, cable TV show "Dirty Jobs" host Mike Rowe testified before Congress on what he sees as a critical shortage of certain types of skilled workers in the U.S.

News link here. Testimony here (short read).

Here are some interesting excerpts:
Right now, American manufacturing is struggling to fill 200,000 vacant positions. There are 450,000 openings in trades, transportation and utilities.

In general, we're surprised that high unemployment can exist at the same time as a skilled labor shortage. We shouldn't be. We've pretty much guaranteed it.

The skills gap is a reflection of what we value. To close the gap, we need to change the way the country feels about work.
The point that Rowe makes in regard to perhaps there are some job openings that are going unfilled in certain geographic areas of the US may be true but let's apply some perspective.

According to the Labor Department there are currently 13.7 million unemployed persons in the US, and another 8.6 million that are involuntary part-time workers. Last month, the US economy added 244,000 non-farm jobs so the 450,000 openings that Mike Rowe talks about in his testimony, seems like about 6 weeks of normal hiring in the current crappy US economy.

Allowing 6-8 weeks to establish, identify candidates, interview and then make the hiring decision seems simply reflective of the current environment and perhaps not out of the ordinary. The jobs that Rowe testified about will perhaps just be filled as normal in 6-8 weeks.

Mike Rowe may well be identifying about 500,000 jobs that are due to be filled in about 2 months, but what about the people that comprise the 434,000 new filings for unemployment in the latest report for last week? And what about the over 1.5 million new college graduates seeking employment after graduating this month?

I'm afraid that while Mike Rowe may be well meaning, his type of testimony here may just reinforce already held dogmas by policymakers that the US government's macro-economic policy can never be one that would result in true full employment. It would be easy for these types of policymakers to just blame the whole thing on some sort of 'skills mis-match' after listening to Rowe. Or perhaps they will jump over to condemnation and blaming the US education system for failing in it's mission.

If the US truly wants full employment, the Federal government can use fiscal policy to facilitate this type of economy at will. Congress needs to hear testimony from any/all of the MMT thought leaders on the topic of a Federal Job Guaranty Program.

1 comment:

Neil Wilson said...

Are we sure that the businesses are 'struggling to fill' vacancies due to a lack of skills and not due to lousy wages and conditions?

The other problem we're generating is that people will work whatever the wages and conditions. IIRC that is called slavery.