Economic snapshot | Jobs and Unemployment

Workers don’t lack skills, they lack work

We often hear the claim that hiring remains so low in this economic recovery because employers can’t find workers with the education and skills they need. A look at the data, however, shows that this is not what’s driving today’s labor market weakness. The figure below shows there is a massive job shortage right now relative to before the recession started at all levels of education. While workers with higher levels of education face substantially lower unemployment rates, they too have seen a large percentage increase in unemployment. Workers with a college degree or more still have unemployment rates that are close to twice as high as they were before the recession began.

At 7.8 percent, the unemployment rate is still more than three percentage points higher than the 4.6 percent average of 2007. Unemployment is high not because workers lack the right education or skills, but because employers have not seen demand for their goods and services pick up enough to need to significantly ramp up hiring. It is not the right workers we are lacking, it is work.

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