No Skill Mismatch in a Healthy Labor Market

A blog about business and economics.
May 3 2012 3:31 PM

No Skill Mismatch in a Healthy Labor Market

I sometimes hear businessmen blame high levels of joblessness on "skill-mismatch" whereby available workers just don't have the know-how to do the jobs that are available. But if you examine a place like the Washington, DC Metropolitan Statistical Area where the unemployment rate is only 5.5 percent, it turns out that it's possible to solve this problem. From Lydia DePillis' article on fancy coffee in the DC area:

In some cities, making coffee is a standard side job, and skilled baristas are a dime a dozen. In the District, where many people still come to work in or around the federal government, they don’t exist: Almost every shop trains their own people, and tries to keep them around for as long as possible. Ryan Jensen, who worked a machine for six years before starting Peregine Espresso in Eastern Market—and recently opened second location on 14th Street NW—says he even chooses locations based on where his employees felt most comfortable.

By contrast, if you look at Portland where  the MSA unemployment rate is 8.3 percent then "skilled baristas are a dime a dozen" and firms don't invest in worker training or pay high efficiency wages to reduce churn. Which is just to say that there are interesting interplays between productivity and the business cycle beyond the theory that an exogenous positive productivity shock would boost employment. Even when labor markets are tight, you can't magically conjure up any old job skill in the universe. But there are an awful lot of specialized skills that can be taught and learned by a broad mass of people when the circumstances are right.

Matthew Yglesias is the executive editor of Vox and author of The Rent Is Too Damn High.


Frame Game

Hard Knocks

I was hit by a teacher in an East Texas public school. It taught me nothing.

Chief Justice John Roberts Says $1,000 Can’t Buy Influence in Congress. Looks Like He’s Wrong.

After This Merger, One Company Could Control One-Third of the Planet's Beer Sales

Hidden Messages in Corporate Logos

If You’re Outraged by the NFL, Follow This Satirical Blowhard on Twitter

Sports Nut

Giving Up on Goodell

How the NFL lost the trust of its most loyal reporters.

How Can We Investigate Potential Dangers of Fracking Without Being Alarmist?

My Year as an Abortion Doula       

  News & Politics
Sept. 15 2014 8:56 PM The Benghazi Whistleblower Who Might Have Revealed a Massive Scandal on his Poetry Blog
Sept. 15 2014 7:27 PM Could IUDs Be the Next Great Weapon in the Battle Against Poverty?
Sept. 15 2014 4:38 PM What Is Straight Ice Cream?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 15 2014 3:31 PM My Year As an Abortion Doula
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Sept. 15 2014 11:38 AM The Slate Doctor Who Podcast: Episode 4  A spoiler-filled discussion of "Listen."
Brow Beat
Sept. 15 2014 8:58 PM Lorde Does an Excellent Cover of Kanye West’s “Flashing Lights”
Future Tense
Sept. 15 2014 4:49 PM Cheetah Robot Is Now Wireless and Gallivanting on MIT’s Campus
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 15 2014 11:00 AM The Comet and the Cosmic Beehive
Sports Nut
Sept. 15 2014 9:05 PM Giving Up on Goodell How the NFL lost the trust of its most loyal reporters.