Patt Morrison for September 13, 2011

When available skills don’t match the jobs demand: unemployment conundrum

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Job seekers read pamphlets as they wait in line to enter the HIREvent job fair at the Doubletree Hotel.

Unemployment in California is at 12 percent, a situation that is mirrored around the country.

As a general rule the recession, the sub-prime mortgage debacle and employer skittishness to invest are blamed for the negative jobs picture. However, researchers at the Brookings Institution have found another fundamental issue impacting the employment picture. People who need jobs may not have the education that some jobs require. And the cities that are struggling aren’t always the ones with the least-educated work force. Instead, they are the places where the skills of those looking for work don’t match the skills needed to fill the available jobs. This education gap doesn’t bode well for an information economy that relies on workers with the latest skills. But the researchers caution that closing the gap will probably not solve the problem alone; strategic public investment and regional economic diversification could help, but is there a magic bullet?

Guest:

Jonathan Rothwell, senior research analyst in the Metropolitan Policy Program at the Brookings Institution; co-author of the study


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