Sunday, April 21, 2013

Bad All Over

So... who has it worse when it comes to breaking into the current job market? Stay-at-home parents returning to the workforce? Those over 50? New college graduates? Low-income Blacks and Latinos? Those out of work for 6 months or longer?

Well, to a certain degree, it's all of the above - and more. As the "great recession" gained momentum, millions of people lost their jobs, and the unemployment rate soared. And even though the recession has formally ended, the unemployment woes haven't, because what counts is GDP, not the workforce. And even though the number of jobs has been slowly climbing, the main reason why the current unemployment rate is where it is owes more to the a lower participation rate than it does to hiring.

It wasn't been difficult to find articles outlining the difficulties of this or that group in finding work since the beginning of the recession, and it's hasn't been difficult to find people calling for new laws or regulations to make life easier for them. But this doesn't do anything about the underlying problem, namely that (overall) it's an employer's market. And when employers have their choice of applicants, and there are large numbers of applicants for any given position, they're going to be selective, and often that selectivity manifests itself as using shortcuts and assumptions to screen people out of consideration. And this results in certain groups feeling the pain more than others.

While I understand the calls to spread the pain around, somewhere along the way we abdicated to Congress and the Executive branch the task of finding a way to reduce the pain. It's a task that they haven't been particularly suited to. So maybe it's time that we started looking for ways to relieve them of it. The solution to damaging selectivity among employers is simple. Put them in a position where they need to hire badly enough that they can't afford to be selective. Of course, there's nothing simple about implementing that. But that should tell us that where we should be spending our energies.

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