The Skills Mismatch: What Employers Say vs. What They Do

Speaking of Jared Bernstein, (who I quoted in my previous post), yesterday he weighed in on the skills mismatch debate. In short, he thinks employers are full of it:

[T]he consensus among economists tends to be that there’s a large skills mismatch between employers’ demands and the skills of the workforce.  I don’t buy it.  The data from the BLS on occupational skill demands now and in the future actually matches up pretty cleanly with the supply of skill, at least at the level of educational attainment.  Yes, employers constantly say they can’t find skilled workers, but that’s kind of the point… they constantly say it. If it were true, you’d see it in a more quickly rising compensation premium to workers with higher levels of education.  And you don’t really see that type of acceleration.  (Note: the emphasis on “acceleration” is important here—the fact that college workers are paid more than high workers isn’t the issue—unmet skill demands imply an increasingly rising premium, and the college premium has actually decelerated in recent years, as this slide from EPI reveals–it shows the regression-adjusted college premium as flat since the latter 90s for women and rising more slowly for men.)

He does think that increasing higher levels of educational attainment is good for the economy in general — in that smarter people are better workers in whatever job they are doing — but that’s not the same argument the skills mismatch folks are making.