Career Poll: How Best Reduce Unemployment Rate?

Well, shucks.  The UW Huskies don’t seem like they’re going to pull off a 28-point comeback here in the fourth quarter, so I figure it’s time to fire up the blog and do something more productive!

As the latest installment of what I plan to become a regular feature of my blog, let’s review/analyze the results of the latest career-related poll I posted on LinkedIn — and then at the bottom of the article, I’ll announce my newest poll, if any of you care to cast your vote.  But again, let’s first recap the poll question I posted in late August:

“What do you think the most effective step would be to reduce the unemployment rate in this country?”

The five response choices were:

1) Employer tax incentives for hiring folks
2) More funding for the small business sector
3) Retraining options for displaced workers
4) Clamp down on outsourcing/immigration
5) Eliminate unemployment insurance

To date, 43 people have weighed in on this particular question, and while it’s tough to see what’s going in in the small graphic below, you can click here to cast your own vote or access the full set of results.

The Analysis? Obviously, there’s a good chance that all five of the measures listed would have some level of positive impact on the unemployment numbers — but given that our elected representatives seem to fight about these different options constantly, themselves, I’m not surprised to see my own poll audience was pretty split, as well.

My own opinion?  Personally, I’m not as much of a fan of Option #1 (tax-based hiring incentives) as the majority of other people seem to be.  While perhaps this approach could stimulate hiring to a certain degree, and convince some businesses to add folks to their payroll in the near-term, I’m not as big a fan of “quick fix” or “band-aid” solutions compared to measures that might actually help us pull out of this economic downturn on a more permanent basis.  To me, I don’t see how a short-term tax incentive for hiring would be all that different from the famous “cash for clunkers” program we all remember from last year.  While auto sales did in fact boom for a month or two while the CFC program was in place, this “growth” was largely artificial and the numbers soon crashed back down to earth, since (according to family members of mine in the business) it basically just increased short-term sales by cannibalizing future demand.  No “new” demand was created and the effect therefore wasn’t all that sustainable.

To me, therefore, I’d rather see Options #2 and #3 receive far more focus from the government.  For starters, my belief is that our society should place more emphasis on helping entrepreneurs and innovators invent new goods/services/technologies/markets, since I think we’d all prosper as a result — and that the growth of these emerging businesses would lead to greatly increased levels of organic,  sustainable hiring.   Additionally, I’d love to see even more funding put into the “retraining” option so that those out-of-work professionals who DO want to make a career change, and acquire the new skills companies are desperately looking for, even in this recession, can make this transition as quickly and affordably as possible.  To back up my case, I’d cite the fact that the www.indeed.com website alone currently lists over 100,000 open positions in Washington State right now — a figure that seems pretty silly and/or sad, when you think about the large number of folks around these parts who are desperately seeking work and a way to make their living.

As for Options #4 and #5 from the poll?  Not too many people voted for those, but I couldn’t resist seeing if there was still a sizable number of people out there willing to rally around the “anti-outsourcing” banner — or who are embracing the hard-line stance that if we simply cut off all unemployment benefits, it will force people to be less picky and start taking some of the jobs that ARE available, despite the fact that these opportunities may be lower-paying or “beneath” one’s historical employment level.  Agree or disagree, this latter measure WOULD definitely decrease the unemployment rate, for sure, but perhaps not in a way most people would find socially desirable.

If any of you have any further commentary on this question, I’d love to hear it, so please feel free to post a “comment” to this article if the mood strikes you.  And for those who might want to chime in on my next question, I’ve just slapped up a brand-new LinkedIn poll (click here to cast your vote) that asks the question: “What is the most profound difference between the job market today and the way things were 20 years ago?”

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5 Responses to “Career Poll: How Best Reduce Unemployment Rate?”

  1. This is a great article. Something needs to be done
    NOW if we ever plan on pulling out of this recession!

  2. Great survey Matt. As a family that lived through a long period of transition, I’m definitely more for options #2 & #3. Government programs to retrain out of work employees work great – move people into new workstreams and skillsets better suited to the needs of today. You’re right, optiions #2 & 3 are longer term fixes rather than a quick band-aid. Additionally there are some fascinating articles in a recent Forbes that give some interesting perspectives on how to fix unemployment, everything from revenue sharing, repealing the minimum wage and importing entrepeneurs. Here is a link to the latter http://www.forbes.com/forbes/2010/0913/curing-unemployment-immigrant-entrepreneurs-import-job-creators.html

  3. I have to agree with you Matt. Especially about retraining! You note that Indeed lists 100,000 jobs open in Washington, which is an incredibly generic number. Something more specific is that Amazon has 800, T’Mobile almost 200, Microsoft is very actively hiring which probably means another 1000 and Boeing has announced a 900 person research center to be added to Boeing Field. These are just some of the very easy ones to identify and all of these are very well paid, very high skill opportunities. The problem is finding people with the “right” skills. We need to train for those.

  4. Erika: Thanks for a great comment — and congratulations on landing a new role after what sounds like a considerable amount of time out on the hunt! In terms of the specific points you raise, I agree with all of them, EXCEPT for the part where you suggest that the 100,000 Indeed.com jobs figure actually might be “inflated” compared to the real number of jobs out there. If anything, I believe that number is severely deflated compared to the reality, simply due to the fact that Indeed (and sites like it) only list published jobs, not the 70-80% or more of hiring needs that are underground and that companies DON’T choose to publicly advertise, for whatever reason. So again, this is where I believe worker training could play a huge role in the eventual recovery. But no question about it, I agree with you about the complexity of the issue and the fact that companies are often looking for instant gratification, versus taking chances on people who don’t have “perfect” credentials…

  5. Good article. I just started working after a year being unemployed. I am with you, more focus on small business development and worker retraining would be best for sustainable growth. Regarding outsourcing – I do think that is and has been a long term deterrent to job growth and should be curtailed or we run the risk of becoming a third world economy with the lucky few at the top, and the rest in non-living wage jobs. 100,000 jobs listed at indeed.com – well, maybe so, but I think that figure inflates the real number of actual jobs out there. Once one factors in jobs that are filled but the postings aren’t removed, jobs that go unfilled for a long time because the hiring manager is “looking for Superman for $1 a day” as you put it, and entry level and/or low wage jobs, there really isn’t anywhere near enough jobs to put everyone back to work who is qualified to hold good jobs. As for cutting UI, I agree that would cause some people to at least try for jobs that they are overqualified for, but a lot of people have already been doing that (I tried, too) and companies won’t hire overqualified people believing they will leave the minute the market improves. In summary, the current situation will be complicated to resolve as there are multiple factors that created it. There will be no quick fix this time around.

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