Saturday, April 6, 2013

Employment Not As Rosy As You May Think

Although the unemployment rate has been below 8% since October, there seems to be a disconnect between what the government and media are telling us about how good things are with jobs and what is real.

There are job openings at a level not seen in years. However, the time it takes to fill a job has increased to 23 business days compared to 15 in mid-2009. Although the economy is improving, the reality is companies are reluctant to hire, holding up the process by making candidates interview over weeks or months, before a decision is made, if one is made at all.

“There’s a fear that the economy is going to go down again, so the message you get from C.F.O.’s is to be careful about hiring someone,” said John Sullivan, a management professor at San Francisco State University who runs a human resources consulting business. “There’s this great fear of making a mistake, of wasting money in a tight economy.” The result is an unreported hiring freeze that seems to be in place, especially for higher skilled workers.

“If you have an opening and are not sure about the economy, it’s pretty cheap to wait for a month or two,” said Nicholas Bloom, an economics professor at Stanford University. But in the aggregate, those little delays are stretching out the recovery process. “It’s like one of those horror movies, an economic Friday the 13th, where this recession never seems to die.”

Although job creation has improved over the last two years, it has little impact on the backlog of unemployed workers. Uncertainty, regarding the effect of fiscal policies in Washington adds to employer indecisiveness. In addition, employers want to make sure that workers who have been out of a job for months or years are up to date with current skills, said Robert Shimer, an economics professor at the University of Chicago, before they agree to on board a candidate.

Employers are under no pressure to hire – one reason as indicated in government labor reports, is high productivity. What this means is employees are working double and triple duty because employers are reluctant to hire additional staff. If they do, to lower labor costs, some companies have imported talent from abroad, especially in the technical fields, at much lower rates than their counterparts in the USA would normally command. In addition, outsourcing continues overseas, further reducing opportunities.

Until the psychological barriers are lifted regarding the fate of the economy and changes are made to reward companies who hire American workers, frustration may continue for quite some time, for domestically unemployed workers.

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C. Cohn
The Cohn-Reilly Report
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