Unemployment is without question the biggest economic issue in the country. Nationwide, over 16 million people who want to work don’t have a job. Is the problem just that we don’t have enough jobs? N.C. State University economist Mike Walden considers this question in today’s Economic Perspective:
“Clearly that is a problem. … We are not creating the jobs at a rate commensurate with where we were in previous recessions and recoveries from recessions. That is, we are having much slower job recovery, so clearly that is one problem.
“But another problem that economists are increasingly looking at is based on what we would call a skills mismatch. That is, the kinds of jobs that are available in areas like health care, skilled crafts jobs, transportation — a lot of the folks who are now unemployed simply don’t have the skills to take those jobs. And so there are cases around the country where there are jobs available and employers simply can’t get qualified people. And unless this is changed, some economists estimate that perhaps the lowest we could push our unemployment rate to is 7 percent, compared to the 4.5 percent we had going into the recession.
“Now I think what this means is that community colleges and universities and other ways of getting advanced training are going to perhaps hold the key to the economic future in terms of getting unemployment down because of this jobs mismatch.”