Monday, October 17, 2011

On job mismatches

The math sounds simple. If x people are unemployed, and y jobs are available, then if y > x, the unemployment problem is solved.

Those of us who love dashboards (simple ways to represent complex data), we track macro figures such as the unemployment rate and figure that explains everything.

Not so fast.

Outside the Beltway linked to a New York Times story that should have had a happy ending for Colorado farmer John Harold. He participates in the H-2A program, which allows him to legally bring in seasonal workers from outside the United States to work on his farm. However, this year's crop of regulations required him to pay these workers $10.50 an hour, which is above the minimum wage. So Harold decided to bring up fewer workers from outside the country, and hire the rest locally. Sounds great, right?

“It didn’t take me six hours to realize I’d made a heck of a mistake,” Mr. Harold said, standing in his onion field on a recent afternoon as a crew of workers from Mexico cut the tops off yellow onions and bagged them.

Six hours was enough, between the 6 a.m. start time and noon lunch break, for the first wave of local workers to quit. Some simply never came back and gave no reason. Twenty-five of them said specifically, according to farm records, that the work was too hard....

Mr. Harold usually hires about 50 local workers for the season — regulars who have worked summers for years — and most returned this year, he said. Finding new employees was where he ran into trouble. He was able to recover after the season started, he said, by rushing in another group of H-2A workers from Mexico.

This is just one of the many issues regarding job mismatches, but it just goes to show that creating jobs, either by private initiative or by public initiative, does not necessarily solve unemployment problems.
blog comments powered by Disqus