America’s Tough Jobs Are Getting Even Tougher to Fill

With 25 million Americans out of work or underemployed, you’d think it wouldn’t be too hard to find a teacher, an admin assistant, or an accountant. But you would be wrong, according to Manpower.

Those jobs are among the 10 toughest jobs to fill in the U.S., says Manpower’s annual Talent Shortage Survey, which also reports that 52 percent of the employers in the survey are having trouble filling jobs.  Only in Japan and India do more companies report talent hard to find.

Globally, a third of all employers say they have difficulty filling jobs.  Lack of experienced workers is the most frequently cited reason,  globally, as well as in every region in the survey. In the Americas, lack of experience was followed by a lack of skills.

Particularly surprising was the the rise in U.S. companies reporting hiring difficulty. In the 2010 survey, only 14 percent of companies reported problems filling jobs. Now the percentage has nearly quadrupled.

If it seems unlikely the hiring situation could have worsened so much so fast, part of the disconnect may have to do with when the survey was conducted – months ago, long before the current round of gloomy economic reports started coming out.

However, SHRM’s LINE report has been chronicling a similar, if less dramatic, rise in recruiting difficulty. The most recent LINE report says recruiting difficulty in the manufacturing area is up 11.2 points over a year ago. In the service sector, recruiting difficulty rose a more modest 2.7 points.

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The LINE report authors attempt to make sense of the situation writing:

Considering that millions of people are actively seeking work and still cannot obtain employment in their industries, the rise in recruiting difficulty may be attributed to new or enhanced skill requirements for newly created high-level jobs.

Some jobs on the list, like sales jobs and engineers,  have historically been tough to fill. IT, though the jobs didn’t make Manpower’s list for the last couple of years, was sixth on this one, a consequence of employers upgrading systems and adding staff that needs to be supported.

The August IT jobs report from Dice shows the number of openings increasing by double-digits from a year ago in the top U.S. tech markets. In Boston, the number of tech openings jumped by 42 percent, eclipsing the rest of the country, including Silicon Valley.

However, even in tech’s holy land, companies are having trouble attracting workers. So acute is the situation in Silicon Valley, that some startups are unable to launch or attract investors, even when the concept has appeal. According to CNNMoney today: “Skilled developers are Silicon Valley’s scarcest resource.”

John Zappe is the editor of and a contributing editor of John was a newspaper reporter and editor until his geek gene lead him to launch his first website in 1994. He developed and managed online newspaper employment sites and sold advertising services to recruiters and employers. Before joining ERE Media in 2006, John was a senior consultant and analyst with Advanced Interactive Media and previously was Vice President of Digital Media for the Los Angeles Newspaper Group.

Besides writing for ERE, John consults with staffing firms and employment agencies, providing content and managing their social media programs. He also works with organizations and businesses to assist with audience development and marketing. In his spare time  he can be found hiking in the California mountains or competing in canine agility and obedience competitions.

You can contact him here.


15 Comments on “America’s Tough Jobs Are Getting Even Tougher to Fill

  1. There is a skills mismatch that has existed for quite some time. Firms are demanding more of job hunters than they are able to provide. In years past, companies would pay for training to get staff up to speed. Foolishly, that has been off the table for many years. Test skilled labor for what they are able to do now that meets your needs then train the heck out of them. You’ll save thousands per hire.

  2. B”H

    It seems that there are a lot of different factors at play here.

    Skilled trades – a lot of the young people who would have loved to go into these have turned elsewhere due to the guilds.

    Sales – most jobs are a large part or all commission. In the current economy this is very difficult

    Drivers – the vast majority are paid per job plus the driver pays for the gas. Between the economy and gas prices a losing proposition.

    Accounting / Management / Administrative – Large segments of the workforce are being overlooked. There are people who have OJT and 10-20 years of outstanding experience but can’t even put in for the job because they don’t have a degree. Also there are many people in the 45+ range of the work force with excellent skills and experience who are being passed over.

    IT Staff – Due to the rapid growth, diversity and the difficulty in keeping up to date in this field

    Restaurant & Hotel staff – It is extremely difficult for an individual to live on minimum wage, not to mention supporting a family.

  3. We are in the third year of decreased employment and the situation will get worse before it gets better. Companies no longer “hire for attitude and train for skills” as they should be doing. Now they want/need everything, they don’t have the luxury to “take a chance on someone”.

    On top of that the entry level candidate is getting left behind, no one has been hiring these folks for a while and everyone WANTS EXPERIENCE when they are filling a position. Co-op and intern programs have not geared up so these young people are scraping for any job in their field – with none to be found.

    Add to that the devastated housing market and in years past when you needed XXXXXX you would move them, now these folks are underwater in their homes (or have lost a lot of equity) and don’t want to make that move to a new location.

    But all of that aside, the real problem here in the US is that our education system has FAILED our youth. Starting in the lower grades and through high school we have not foused on an education that will give these kids employable skils.

    So the WAR FOR TALENT will continue, and overall we all lose as businesses can’t expand for lack of talent, problems don’t get solved and productivity will eventually suffer as a result.

  4. Malka has hit the nail on the head with the issue of the older talented individuals who are unemployed through no fault of their own. The trend is that unemployed people are damaged goods and some companies are just not even looking at them. I help unemployed professionals to use LinkedIn to network.

    Many of those are very talented IT, sales, CEO’s and CFO’s that are not even getting interviews. Why, due to age, and being unemployed.

  5. Malka is right but there are also other factors some which were addressed but others weren’t. Example, what is the age of the hiring manager? What is that generation called? Most of those individuals are still in that “ME” phase. They have two issues. They are the power, they know all, they decide. This is not something I have discovered, this is what is stated in all types of research regarding that generation. If a recruiter could convince them that the candidate might lack the direct skill but has the ability to transfer other similar skills and learn the changes in need then it’s a possibility that the hiring manager can hire successfully and at a reasonable cost for now and the future. The main issue isn’t the candidate; it’s the hiring manager and the salesperson who doesn’t know how to sell that candidate to the client. Managers need to start looking at candidates in a positive way. Look for reasons to hire someone not the red flags to reject them. There is nothing wrong with the unemployed they usually really want to work. The discrimination against the older worker isn’t fair either. Even if they can’t maintain the top pace, they can maintain a pace faster then no one. When considering diversity candidates why aren’t the disabled considered a candidate? Why do you have to be a veteran, non-white, Hispanic, or Indian etc… The disabled workforce is extremely underused and many times the cost to “Reasonably Accommodate” them is insignificant compared to the volume of them who are able and qualified to do the work.

  6. Doug has a strong point about the age of the hiring manager in regards to older workers. And the problem is not necessarily the level of skills as much as the perceptions. The younger generation often does not realize the true value of experience. They fail to realize that even though the younger generation moves faster, a higher quality project will be rolled out in less time with fewer problems along the way due to high levels of hands on experience and know how, despite working at a slightly slower pace.

    Workers with disabilities are the largest untapped labor resource/talent. Approximately 70% of employable people with disabilities are currently not working.

  7. American business does not hire entry level employees therefore all they can do is raid employees from each other to acquire the experienced ones. This pool is ever shrinking so the problem will simply grow worse. If you can’t find qualified experienced employees it is your own fault, so suck it up and pay up employers. If you don’t like it then move offshore.

  8. @Joseph: You’re quite right. Hiring companies seem to be increasingly obsessed with hiring only the”Fabulous 5%” for decent-paying, RFT positions with benefits, and if you aren’t in that category, be grateful for what you can get.

  9. I suspect that it’s the syndrome we saw in the mid-’70’s recessions: “there are lotsa people out there, we’ll wait until we find the cleanest/best/optimum” which was combined with “any red flag is THE red flag.”

    (Both, by the way, testify that the “hiring problem” is really not as intense as some would say. My experience tells me that when it is really a need, firms will take someone with a few scars–or take someone who needs training on 1 element of the package.)

    Older workers have ‘reference problems’ which is to say that if one digs far enough, one will find someone who has a negative. It’s not hard to cross swords with SOMEONE if you’ve been in the workforce for 30 years.

    And, of course, there’s expense. Older workers tend to have larger compensation requirements.

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