You may have heard U.S. corporations are busy playing dead with more than a trillion bucks stuffed in their coffers.
You may be wondering how that happened during a recession, stock market, banking and real estate crash. It’s complicated and I’m not an economist so I don’t pretend to know all the intricate and gory details but Ken Goldstein, economist at The Conference Board, says most of the money that large corporations are holding stems from “tremendous cost-cutting and shedding employees.” I don’t disagree.
Though I am not an economist, my career in workforce development has me glued to labor statistics like a fly on….. well, you know. Clearly one of the critical conundrums we have going on as 2010 goes out is what I am calling the Jobs War™ (I googled it, it doesn’t exist so I’m claiming it). The Jobs War™ is not the war for talent, though they are both going on at the same time.
The concept of a war for talent is interesting but for all the talk about how dang hard it is to find the right worker bees I don’t really believe there is much of one going on at all.. The truth is, the war for talent keeps business on its toes and competitive, challenges us to up skill, find, burrow out, educate, train, and learn. It causes business to invest in technology and talent, enhances job security and creates opportunity. That doesn’t sound much like “war”.
The three million job vacancies that regularly appear in monthly DOL reports and cause suspicion that there just aren’t enough James Bonds in the U.S. to fill em’ all really don’t deserve that much attention. Most are recurrent short-term, temp, seasonal or high turnover long-term (the kind that can’t keep employees) jobs. They’ve always been there give or take half a million, aren’t going away and it is impossible to have zero jobs available regardless of the unemployment rate. These are not the same as say a vacancy for a financial analyst, full-time with benefits. They are more like 30 hours a week so you can’t have benefits, work second shift in our burn and churn call center jobs.
War invokes organized struggle, great sacrifice, multiple casualties, winners and losers, suffering and pain.
In mass amounts, business has armed a faux talent crisis by taking advantage of the economic downturn to raise the bar needlessly to require degrees for jobs that have no real requirement for them, import H1B workers at lower than market wages displacing qualified candidates, hire senior level candidates in junior level positions at junior level wages – because they can, therefore impacting the ability to place the right people in the right seats, and not making intelligent decisions about where to locate and where the skilled workforce is that they need. To amass and hoard even more money, they also cut back on national recruitment events and relocation packages – hindering their ability to find the right hire and hire right.
First they off-shored, then they near-shored, now they are re-shoring and importing off-shore labor. The war on talent is largely fabricated.
Full employment means always having more vacant jobs than unemployed men, not slightly fewer jobs. It means that the jobs are at fair wages, of such kind, and so located that the unemployed men can reasonably be expected to take them; it means by consequence, that the normal lag between losing one job and finding another will be very short. Jobs, rather than men, should wait.
- William Beveridge (1944) Full Employment in A Free Society
I’m coining the Jobs War™ as the organized triadic struggle of government, corporations and talent to balance economy/profitability with unemployment/underemployment, job creation/growth and quality of life, exacerbated by efficiencies gained through technology, penchant for higher profit margins, an aging workforce and loss of blue collar jobs – and it means great sacrifice, suffering and pain for all.
The national unemployment rate for October 2010 is 9% as calculated in the neat way the government chooses to do it that leaves out an awful lot of people. Though it is almost twice as high as a few years ago, it’s only the tip of the iceberg. More telling is the real number of the 40 million plus who are unemployed, under employed and mal-employed. If you’re are waiting for jobs to “come back” I’ll posit that you’re deluded.
If you owned a company that downsized and then maintained production, affording you higher profit margin, would you revel in your new secret for success or run out and hire?
If you could buy technology that increased your efficiency and reduced the need for manpower and benefits would you do it?
All that talk about musical chairs when the job market opens back up.. a flood gate isn’t going to open.
For additional analysis see Andrew Sum: Is Rising Structural Unemployment a Problem?