2007/08/25

Unanswered Help Wanted Ads: A Sign of Things to Come?

A recent Yahoo! News article discussed the extremely tight job market in the Western US where some regions have unemployment rates as low as 2%.

This article immediately raises several questions in my mind.
  1. Does the article give an accurate portrayal of the situation in the west?
  2. Are most of the unfilled jobs minimum wage jobs that only teenagers will consider, or can an intelligent hard-working person easily find a full-time, family-supporting job?
  3. Is this situation a preview of what awaits America because of demographics, e.g. the baby boomers reaching retirement age?
First of all, does the article accurately portray the jobs situation in the Western US states? Can a person who needs a job and heads to these states find a job quickly, or is this just a news 'sound bite'? There are lots of people who need jobs in various areas of the US, especially areas where there have been massive layoffs and in certain industries that have been hard-hit by the lower wages which have driven the global economy in recent years. If this is a true portrayal, an excess of job openings is good news for job-seekers who are willing to move. Because there has not been a blast of media articles talking about the unanswered want ads, one might suspect this will be a short-lived topic. On the other hand, the article may simply be the leading edge of more extensive news coverage on this issue.

Secondly, what types of jobs are available and how much experience is needed for the higher paying jobs? If the unfilled jobs are mostly $6 to $10 per hour for unskilled labor, those jobs most likely will not justify relocation by someone who wants to support a family or for some other reason prefers to have a reasonable standard of living. Unfilled low-paying jobs might become more common in America and may cause even more immigration by those willing to work for what most Americans consider low wages.

If many of the unfilled jobs require someone with extensive experience in specialized occupations such as plasma cutting of thick metal on CNC machines or use of AutoCAD, Solidworks and 3D printers to design and produce prototypes for MEMS devices in the measurement and sensing industry, then job applicants need to carefully review the openings before relocating. If there is a wide range of openings with many of them paying well or leading to higher paying jobs, then the reported bonanza of job openings is a good thing for workers looking for a new start.

Lastly, is this an anomaly, or is it a harbinger of the American future? Will the graying of baby boomers lead to a shortage of less-skilled workers and/or an inadequate number of highly-trained and high-experienced employees available to American businesses?

If this is a true shortage of workers for the American economy, it will cause some serious changes at companies needing workers to either grow their business or just to replace employees who quit or are let go. It may result in companies spending more time on figuring out how to get and keep employees passionate about their jobs. Because it will be harder to find replacements for employees who are not a good fit with the company, it may lead to companies doing a better job up front of hiring appropriate employees. We might see some new research and new learnings about how to keep employees engaged and how to best utilize the skills, knowledge and passions of each worker.

One result for some companies or industries, especially for knowledge workers, will be more flexible working arrangements and schedules. People may spend more time working from home or in a co-working facility a mile from home, instead of traveling every day to an office 25 miles from their home. The co-working facilities may be paid for by the worker's employer, and may house people from twenty different companies, some large, some small and even a few that are owners of their one-person company. Different co-working facilities could have distinct personalities, such as Co-working Geeks, Co-working Moms, or Co-working Vegetarians. Lots of opportunities to build new communities! Companies who house their employees in these co-working facilities may find them a source of good new employees and unique innovations resulting from interactions of their employees with other people in the facility.

There are lots of changes afoot in the new world of work. Companies and workers who successfully adapt will love the changes. Those who are stuck in the old way of doing things are headed for trouble, because the rules have changed and there's no heading back...

** One last note about the 'unanswered want ads' in the Western US states. With the collaboration and communication capabilities of today's internet, I see a huge opportunity for web services that successfully connect appropriate job candidates with employers desperate for good workers. There are already numerous 'job sites' on the web, but they are apparently not meeting the needs of the employers in the west. Some enterprising web services entrepreneurs should focus on this opportunity, move to Montana, Utah or Wyoming, and build a new company that addresses this apparently Huge Pain Point. (And for those who ask "will anyone pay to get rid of the pain?", the answer is Yes!)

*****

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