The first question Tom Corbett’s Manufacturing Jobs Council should be asking of manufacturing CEOs who say they’re having trouble finding skilled workers is whether they’re offering high enough wages.
I suspect they’re not. One thing we’ve been seeing during the Little Depression is employers trying to take advantage of the slack labor market by low-balling on wage offers. It could just be that employees aren’t interested in doing these jobs for the pay these employers are offering.
I’ve seen a few reporters now uncritically pass along the employer claim that they can’t fill “good-paying” or “high wage” jobs, but these descriptors don’t really mean anything without some comparisons. “Good-paying” compared to what? The same jobs in other states or other countries? Other jobs that people might prefer to do? What? It’s not enough to tell us that the CEO thinks he’s paying a sufficiently high wage. The potential workers also have to think so in order for the market to clear.
The easiest way to tell whether these guys are being honest is if we see wages increasing and hours-worked increasing. If we are really seeing a skills mismatch, then we should see wages increasing as firms try to outbid their competitors for the same set of skilled workers, and hours-worked increasing as firms try to squeeze more production out of the skilled workers they have. Since we do not seem to be seeing either of those things in the manufacturing sector, this seems to be a pretty straightforward case of CEO’s low-balling wage offers.