Why, With Unemployment So High, Do So Many Jobs Go Begging?

BY Paul Solman  September 19, 2012 at 2:11 PM EST


An applicant speaks with a prospective employer at a New York job fair. Photo by: Getty Images/John Moore

As former President Bill Clinton put it in his speech earlier this month at the Democratic National Convention, “there are already more than 3 million jobs open and unfilled in America, mostly because the people who apply for them don’t yet have the required skills to do them.”

We’ve looked at this claim of a jobs-skills mismatch before on Making Sen$e, here and here . But in researching an upcoming story, we heard a very different explanation for the failure to fill jobs from Wharton School professor Peter Cappelli, an expert on employment issues. He puts the onus for unfilled openings on employers:

“First, they’re not training. They want to hire people who can step right into the job with no training, with no ‘on-boarding.’ Second, they’re offering wages now which are much lower than they used to offer, that is they’re expecting people to show up with much better credentials at the same wage than they used to expect. Third, they’re expecting skill sets which they never saw in the same person before. And fourth, they’re expecting to do this without any humans doing any of the interviewing or doing any of the screening process.

They’re expecting to turn the whole thing over to software and having the appropriate candidate pop out at the other end.”

It’s number four that we focus on in the story we’re readying for broadcast — a sobering look at the process of searching and applying for jobs online.

This entry is cross-posted on the Making Sen$e page, where correspondent Paul Solman answers your economic and business questions