Yes, There’s a Skills Deficit, But How About Just Filling Some Open Jobs?

This page is part of the Kensington partnership I mentioned above.

So the unemployment rate went up a little in May, from 7.5 percent to 7.6 percent. The Bureau of Labor Statistics deems this increase as “essentially unchanged.”

That’s despite 175,000 more people working. How does this math work?

I’ve written about the how the unemployment rate in the U.S. is determined here and here. But here’s another slice of data to consider: It’s the number of job openings.

Some curious numbers

The Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) published each month alongside the unemployment numbers, shares really interesting data each month. Along with the data about quits and hires, are data about job openings.

It’s fascinating. Really.jolts-june-2013

So, although there were 3,757,000 job openings in April (down 118,000 from March, or “little changed” as the BLS describes it) the difference between hires and total separations was just 146,000 month over month. So on the surface, a net of 175,000 new jobs is curious.

More curious is matching the number of job openings to the number of unemployed people by industry. Economist Heidi Shierholz published a piece for the Economic Policy Institute last week that shows in stark relief that unemployed workers still significantly outnumber job openings in every major sector.

Based on analysis of the JOLTS and other data, the following chart is a snapshot of current job openings numbers by industry and the numbers of unemployed workers in those industries. It’s rather eye popping and raises lots of questions.unemployed-far-outstrips-available-jobs-june-2013

A wealth of data points

Ouch! So think about this data when you read about employers not being able to find the right skills for their openings.

Is it really skills they can’t find? Or something else? How hard are they looking? What BFOQs are they using that overlook millions of job seekers?

Curious, yes?

Article Continues Below

There are so many data points around employment — job openings, quits, hires, workers, unemployed workers, discouraged job seekers, skills, education levels, education spending. The data points come from bonafide sources (like the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce), quasi bonafide sources with bias (like the Economic Policy Institute, SHRM, U.S. Chamber of Commerce and AARP), vendor sponsored research and white papers, and millions of blogs and other media sources.

Lots of sources. Lots of data points. Lots of analysis. Lots of conflicting findings and conclusions.

Matching jobs with available talent

The best we can do is be proactive in finding sources that are transparent about their data and analysts who seem unbiased. And then be persistent in looking at all sides of an issue and smart in believing what you read.

On the issues of skills, jobs and unemployment, though, it seems that we don’t know what we’re doing. We may not even really know what the truth is.

Except this: we’ve got to do better at matching job openings with available talent. It’s clear that we haven’t figured this out — not government, not business/employers, not education providers, not workers, not vendors, not recruiters.

Forget the skills deficit. What about just filling the open the jobs?

This originally appeared on China Gorman’s blog at

China Gorman is a successful global business executive in the competitive Human Capital Management (HCM) sector. She is a sought-after consultant, speaker and writer bringing the CEO perspective to the challenges of building cultures of humanity for top performance and innovation, and strengthening the business impact of Human Resources.

Well known for her tenure as CEO of the Great Place to Work Institute, COO and interim CEO of the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), and President of Lee Hecht Harrison, China works with HCM organizations all over the world to enhance their brands and their go-to-market strategies. Additionally, she serves on the Executive Committee of the Board of Jobs for America’s Graduates as well as the Advisory Boards of Elevated Careers, the Workforce Institute at Kronos, and WorldBlu. Addtionally, she chairs the Globoforce WorkHuman Advisory Board and the Universum North America Board. China is the author of the popular blog Data Point Tuesday, and is published and frequently quoted in media properties like Fortune, TLNT, Huffington Post, Inc., Fast Company, U.S. News & World Report and many others.


3 Comments on “Yes, There’s a Skills Deficit, But How About Just Filling Some Open Jobs?

  1. Hello China. If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times–by and large our hiring systems are broken, broken, broken. Ridiculously long applications; convoluted tracking systems; too many interviews with too many people who aren’t even qualified to evaluate candidates; unskilled interviewers; the whole “Prius” thing; stupid bias about older people, younger people, unemployed people; and employer fear–and I’m pretty sure I haven’t mentioned everything. Something has gotta give. Thanks for stating it plainly–we’ve got a freakin’ problem, and we’ve got to get more interested in finding solutions instead of doing the same old same old that’s not working for workers OR employers.

    1. Hey Crystal, totally no board. As China pointed out, there are clearly a lot of people looking for jobs and companies looking for quality talent. Do you have any ideas of creative solutions? I feel like referral programs show a lot of promise on a small scale, but how can we improve the systsem overall?

      1. Hi Elyssa. Well, I wish I had something complex and brilliant to say, but instead I’ll say– I think we simply have to stop putting dumb roadblocks between us and good employees.

        Stop with the marathon interviewing. Stop with the stupid pseudo-psychological questions and the behavioral interview questions when the interviewer isn’t even qualified to evaluate the answers. Stop with the looooong applications. (I once applied for an HR job–yes, God help me I did–where it took me TEN HOURS to complete the application because of all the essay questions, and my favorite question was “If you applied for a job with _________ before and weren’t hired, what do you think held you back?” HELD YOU BACK? Are you freakin’ kidding me? How arrogant and adversarial, and what could the company hope to learn? The candidate’s not in a position to answer the question. The candidate isn’t going to be aware of all the moving parts behind the hiring curtain. This question was somebody’s idea of an “intelligent” question to gain “insight” into the candidate’s thinking patterns, and what a crock.

        Also, can we PLEASE rethink this belief that the only qualified candidate is the one who has done EXACTLY the same job we have open. Again, I’ve seen HR jobs advertised where the employer states something like “Must have worked in _____ industry for X years managing a staff of ______ number of employees.” These ads make me want to call the hiring manager or the recruiter and say, “That’s like, three damn people in the whole city!! Why don’t you just call your two competitors, ask for the HR department, and find out if the HR Manager there wants to work for you, because, according to you, no one else is qualified, and that’d be a lot simpler than putting all these other job seekers through the mill.” Insanity.

        These are just a few examples that demonstrate, in my oh so humble opinion, that the problem is not just process, it’s philosophy. We’re making this stuff much harder than it has to be.

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