Have the Unemployed Given Up on Finding Jobs?

Two months ago, when Andy* realized that being self-employed was not going to pay his bills, he started applying for jobs. Fortunately, his previous sales experience landed him a job within a week, and even though it’s at a lower wage than he’d previously received, Andy is grateful to be employed again.

When Marty* was laid off last year from her sales job, she told her family cheerfully, “It’s okay, I’ll collect a year of unemployment.” But now that her benefits have run out and the sales job she was counting on just fell through, Marty is feeling a lot less cheerful. Apparently, she is not alone.

In a new survey of the unemployed, conducted by Harris Poll from April 9 through April 21, 2014, 47% say they have, to some degree or completely, given up looking for a job. Of the 1,500 adult unemployed Americans surveyed, 46% reported not having gone on any job interviews last month. Although 45% blame the economy for their being out of work, 44% also responded that they are not at all willing to move to another city for a new job. Of those receiving unemployment compensation, 48% agreed that they haven’t had to look for work as hard because of it, and 62% agreed that it has allowed them to take more time for themselves.

Although the skills gap was not mentioned in this survey, its presence always lurks beneath any discussion of high unemployment considering how many open jobs there are nationwide. According to the BLS as of May 9, 2014, there are 4 million job openings in the U.S. The new survey may have shed a little light on the disparity, revealing that 64% of respondents have no plans to go back to school to become more marketable. But Forbes writer Adam Lewis says employers share responsibility for the positions going unfilled:

An objective look at the job market, however, clearly shows that while technology is increasingly deployed in higher-level recruiting efforts, it is underutilized in services and support sectors – such as retail – that require less specific skill sets and tend to have high turnover among predominantly low-wage positions. These jobs should in theory be relatively easy to fill, but many businesses are failing to recruit well-qualified candidates – and too many jobs remain open.

Lewis put himself through the job application process to experience firsthand what candidates face every day. The results were daunting. Long lines, cumbersome forms to fill out, and lack of technology to make the application process easier all combined to discourage candidates from sticking around even long enough to be interviewed.

There is a silver lining, if one chooses to look for it, however. The flip side of the survey results is that 53% of the unemployed are still looking for jobs, 56% are willing to relocate, and 36% do plan to go back to school to make themselves more marketable. Also, employers do have the power to make their screening process more candidate-friendly. They can also make better hires (that’s where we at Amtec can help!), accept less-than-perfect matches for their open positions, look for candidates with transferable skills, and be willing to train new employees. Positive change can happen if we’re all willing to tackle the problem together.

*not their real names

By Marcianne Kuethen

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