The national unemployment rate hovers at 9.5 percent, exceeding that level in some hard-hit regions like Arizona, Florida and Michigan. Yet some employers say that they’re struggling to fill job openings, particularly in certain difficult or highly skilled sectors, reports the Wall Street Journal.
The report suggests a few possible explanations. There’s a certain amount of rigidity baked into the labor market, thanks to high homeownership rates and the current woes of the real estate market. People are trapped in underwater mortgages, stuck in one – often economically depressed – place, and unable to sell out and leave.
Some economists believe that extended unemployment benefits reduce the size of the available labor force, as people lack the incentive to exhaustively search for jobs.
There are also structural shifts in the labor market, says the Journal: Many jobs in the "broad middle," including support staff and management, were trimmed as the economy faltered. These people don’t qualify for highly skilled jobs but have troubled adjusting to work on the bottom tiers of the service economy.
"This is as bad now as at the height of business back in the 1990s," Dan Cunningham, chief executive of the Long-Stanton Manufacturing Co., told the Journal. Cunningham is trying to hire toolmakers. "It’s bizarre. We are just not getting applicants."