Tag Archives: U.S. Departmet of Labor

Data Point #11: Talent optimism vs. realism

We’re surrounded by all kinds of data points about the talent/skill shortage.  I wrote about it here and here.  Today we have two data points:  one comes from SHRM’s Q2 2012 Jobs Outlook Survey Report and the second comes from the BLS 2012 Occupational Outlook Handbook.

SHRM’s Jobs Outlook Survey has some interesting data from a small sample of its 250,000+ members.  (This particular survey was sent to 3,000 randomly selected SHRM members with 336 members responding, for an 11% response rate.)  These quarterly JOS surveys ask HR professionals interesting questions about optimism in job growth, planned changes in total staff levels, categories of workers companies will hire and categories of workers most difficult to hire in the previous quarter.

I was particularly interested in the responses to the question asking which categories of workers were most difficult to hire in the 1st Quarter of this year.  The sample is small (n=246), so the data are directional at best, but do line up with other data sources.

This data is congruent with BLS (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics) data relative to education level attainment and the corresponding unemployment rates in April.  The higher the unemployment rate, the lower the difficulty to hire:

  • Less than high school:                                   12.5%
  • High school no college:                                  7.9%
  • Some college or Associate degree:               7.6%
  • Bachelor’s degree or higher:                         4.0%

In other words, it’s more difficult to find skilled professionals and managers in this job market because there are fewer of them unemployed and there are fewer of them overall.  It’s easier to find service workers and unskilled manual workers because more of them are unemployed and there are more of them overall.

But still, as the SHRM report highlights, employers are having difficulty in hiring at all levels.  Which makes me wonder:  are we being unnecessarily restrictive in our job specifications?  Are we hiring people with college degrees when an associate degree would suffice?  Are we requiring associate degrees when a high school degree would be adequate?  I don’t know the answer, but considering the data is interesting.

The Occupation Outlook Handbook, published by the BLS, shows the projected job growth by education category in the 2010-2020 decade:

While the number of jobs created in this decade that will require a Bachelor’s degree or higher is predicted to be nearly 5 million, the number of jobs predicted to be created requiring some college/no degree or less is nearly 13 million.

So if the key to employment (and financial) security for the average worker is a Bachelor’s degree, but the greatest numbers of jobs being created in the next decade won’t require a Bachelor’s degree, how do we reconcile this as employers?

Do we hire college educated workers for jobs that only require a high school diploma?  Are we already doing that now?

Do we work to raise the general level of worker education because we believe it’s the key to global competitiveness?

Do we encourage students to enroll in career and technical education programs in and after high school rather than college because those are the skills needed in the economy?

The data around employers having difficulty finding the talent/skills they need isn’t as simple as it looks.  It’s actually quite challenging.  Under every layer of data is another layer of data.  Solving our talent attraction and acquisition needs won’t be solved with one tactic. But it’s a safe bet that solving our talent challenges will include strengthening relationships between employers and the education infrastructure to produce the skills our economy really needs.

As I look at the data, the optimist in me says we’re covered over in opportunity.  The realist in me says we’ve got a lot of work to do and not a lot of time in which to do it.

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Filed under Bureau of Labor Statistics, China Gorman, Demographics, Education Deficit, Employment Data, HR, Post-secondary education, SHRM, Talent Management, Talent pipeline, U.S. Department of Labor, Uncategorized, Unemployment, Unemployment Rate

Data Point #1: Unemployment Rate vs. Layoff Data

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics published a mixed bag of news week before last.  While the unemployment rate fell from 8.5% in December to 8.3% in January, the number of mass layoff events in January grew by 50 over the previous month.  (A mass layoff event  involves at least 50 workers from a single employer.)  The total number of employees involved in these events, however, was reduced month-over-month by 15,728.  So while more employers were downsizing in January, fewer employees were impacted.  Good news, right?  Maybe…

Looking at the trend lines in the chart below, HR professionals may scratch their heads and wonder what is different in January 2012 from April 2008?  The number of initial claims are similar:  128,643 in April 2008 vs 129,920 in January 20102.  But the unemployment rate is significanttly dissimilar:  5% unemployment in April 2008 vs. 8.3% unemployment in January 2012.  What’s going on?

Clearly, the lagging effects of the economic downturn which began to gather steam in the 3rd and 4th quarters of 2008 are still being felt.  The resulting embedded base of unemployed workers continues to weigh heavily on the U.S. economy and the unemployment rate despite the falling numbers of layoff events and impacted workers.

So how is this data useful for HR professionals?  Simple.  Putting the long-time unemployed back to work has to be job #1 in our organizations and our communities.  As your organization plans to grow its employee base — whether with contract, temporary or full-time employees — what are your plans to target the long-term unemployed for inclusion in the talent pipeline?

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Filed under Bureau of Labor Statistics, China Gorman, Data Point Tuesday, Employment Data, HR, Talent pipeline, U.S. Department of Labor, Uncategorized