Jobless linger in feds' safety net
By Jack Markowitz
Published: Thursday, Oct. 3, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
Too bad America's hardest jobs to fill don't include movie star or sports hero. There'd be no shortage of applicants.
But how about machinist or commercial truck driver?
Engineer, salesperson, medical professional?
Those are among America's 10 hardest-to-fill jobs. The others: CNC programmer (manufacturing engineer), welder, accountant, and information technology and administrative personnel.
Wonder of wonders, in this U.S. economy, good jobs are looking for people. The latest astonishing number: 3.9 million.
That's from the Bureau of Labor Statistics if you don't believe it, and who could blame you? The national obsession, fed by politics and news media, is with unemployment and how hard our government has to work to bring it down.
What we might well ponder more is the gap between the classic “help wanted” sign and the folks who can't, won't or don't have the skills to go for it.
Our “labor participation rate” mysteriously keeps shrinking, a “tragedy in the making,” as a nationwide job placement firm puts it.
“When Americans quit looking for work because they conclude that not working beats working, America faces a significant problem,” says Express Employment Services Inc. of Oklahoma City, with more than 600 franchises and $2.5 billion sales, in a report titled “The Great Shift.”
Since the last recession, working has recovered a few million opportunities — but not working is up, too, hidden by going uncounted in the labor force.
Just 63.4 percent of eligible Americans held jobs as of July. That's a 2.7-percentage-point drop in a half-dozen years. We've got 140 million jobs but 90 million or so Americans (including the very young and old) not in the labor force.
What's behind the shift?
For one thing, the first wave of baby boomer retirements, many of them on edge about whether their money will hold out.
Also a tendency of some jobless in their prime years, including Millennials coming of age since 2000, to give up looking. Too discouraged, it's said. Thus sidelined are 1.8 million young adults, a wildly haywire number, given the jobs going begging.
A growing number of us are “stuck in the safety net of government benefits,” says the report. Stick-out example: disability benefits, now received by 14 million Americans, including many formerly employed. The Social Security Administration reports a 44 percent increase in claims since the recession. States are partly to blame; they like to shift people to disability from welfare or unemployment, because the federal government pays. Some law firms also promote disability claims.
A shrinking labor force poses woe and conflict down the road. When Social Security started in the 1930s, 12 workers paid into the system for every retiree drawing out. Now the ratio is 1.5 to 1. Seventeen million more immigrants might be needed by 2020 to make up for Americans sitting it out.
A bright note: Express Employment founder and CEO Bob Funk, 72, has placed a lot of people. He said in a Wall Street Journal interview that just three essentials exist for finding and keeping a job: personal integrity, a strong work ethic, and the ability to pass a drug test.
Jack Markowitz is a Thursday columnist for Trib Total Media. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Obama, House Republicans trade accusations in thwarting immigration reform
- Denver wife killed 12 minutes into 911 call, sparking inquiry
- Penguins rally to escape with victory in Game 1 vs. Columbus
- Peduto says Penguins playoff series will be economic boon
- Q&A with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman
- Veteran North Huntingdon police officer fired
- Former Pitt captain Cavanaugh blazes trail as entrepreneur
- Penguins notebook: Goc skates, tests ailing ankle
- Reward offered in six-year-old homicide in Clairton
- Legal experts question prosecuting South Fayette boy for recording bullies
- Legislative sting’s scope broad, diverse