Number of open jobs continues to exceed the number of unemployed job seekers; manufacturers work to close skills gap

Employers, as we wrote last week, continue to add jobs at an expectations-beating pace, leading to more workers entering the labor market in search of jobs. The Associated Press reports,

Last week’s blockbuster jobs report helped assuage concerns about the economy, as it showed that hiring reached a 10-month high in December.

The number of open jobs is still higher than the number of unemployed, a switch that occurred in March for the first time in the nearly 20 years that the government has tracked job openings. There were 6 million people were out of work in November.

That suggests employers are desperate to hire…

A persistent concern among employers has been finding workers with the training and skills required to do the job. The National Association of Manufacturers notes the concern and identifies steps manufacturers are taking to address it.

…due to an unprecedented skills gap in the U.S. workforce, the manufacturing industry is struggling to fill all of their open positions.

In some cases, manufacturers can’t find workers with the right technical and digital skill sets they’re looking for. In others, talented students are avoiding the manufacturing sector altogether due to outdated perceptions of what the industry has to offer. Regardless, nearly half a million manufacturing jobs remain unfilled as of last count, and The Manufacturing Institute’s and Deloitte’s 2018 Skills Gap Study found that this number is expected to grow in the coming years.

They cite programs offered by the NAM Manufacturing Institute to address the skills gap. 

In addition to the Institute’s work, manufacturers across the country are doing their own part in training the workforce of the future. GE Appliances, for example, launched a jobs program last year that offers opportunities for high school seniors to gain first-hand experience in the manufacturing industry; United Technologies boosted investments in 30 workforce training programs across the country; Boeing partnered with the National Science Foundation to invest $21 million in online training for critical STEM skills. These are just a few of the countless examples of what industry is doing each day to help solve the skills gap.

Manufacturers’ concerns are shared by small business. NFIB reports that while small business optimism remains high, worker shortages are a problem.

“Optimism among small business owners continues to push record highs, but they need workers to generate more sales, provide services, and complete projects, said NFIB President and CEO Juanita D. Duggan.

The challenge is widespread.

A record 39 percent of small business owners reported job openings they could not fill in the current period. Sixty percent of owners reported hiring or trying to hire, but 90 percent of those reported few or no qualified applicants for the position. Twenty-three percent of owners cited the difficulty in finding qualified workers as their Single Most Important Business Problem.

Opportunities abound. Making sure workers have the requisite skills must be a top policy priority. We commend those employers that are taking steps to close the skills gap.