The U.S. unemployment rate remains at 7.6 percent. Friday's report from
the Labor Department also says the economy had a net gain of 195,000
jobs. While the U.S. unemployment rate is better than it was during the
financial crisis, it is still high in comparison to the average rate
over the past couple of decades. Researchers are seeking reasons for the
slow job market recovery.
Economists and others say fast-changing technology and a mismatch
between workers' skills and employers' needs get some of the blame for
the frustratingly slow recovery in the U.S. job market.
With that in mind, researchers at the ACT company have been evaluating
millions of workers over five years to see if they have key skills
employers want -- applied mathematics, reading for information, and
finding and analyzing information.
They found that people with more education tended to do better on the
tests, but ACT's Hope Clark says higher education did not guarantee high
levels of skill. She says many applicants struggled with tests of their
ability to locate information and organize it in ways that are useful in
the workplace, such as charts and graphs.
“If our nation does a better job of understanding the skills and
requirements for jobs that are demanded by employers, we can do a much
better job of making sure that our existing workforce and our future
workforce have those skills that employers are looking for," Clark said.
ACT is well known for testing prospective college students to see if
they are ready for university-level work.
Meantime, some researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
say impressive advances in computer technology may be the cause of
sluggish employment growth for the past 10 or 15 years.
Past technological surges have eliminated some jobs, changed the nature
of work, but eventually created more and often better jobs.
David Rotman monitors the university's research and says studies show
this time may be different with a net loss in the job market. Computers
have been taking jobs in manufacturing, clerical and retail work, and
improved machines and software may expand into law, financial services,
education and medicine.
“So one scenario is that machines will increasingly do a very broad
range of jobs and tasks, and the pace of technology deployment and
progress will continue to accelerate," he said.
Rotman is the editor of MIT's Technology Review. He says some scholars
think the nature of work is changing, with middle class jobs in the post
office and customer service, for example, going away, while highly-paid
work creating high technology grows, and hard-to-automate low-wage jobs
in the service sector expand.