Did They All Retire?

Photograph by Ariana Lindquist/Bloomberg

The JOLTS data are also useful for diagnosing what’s behind our persistently high unemployment. In today’s economy, unemployed workers far outnumber job openings in every sector. This demonstrates that the main problem is a broad-based lack of demand for workers—and not, as is often claimed, available workers lacking the skills needed for the sectors with job openings.

—Heidi Shierholz, “Job Openings and Hiring Dropped in December, and Have Not Increased since Early 2012,” Economic Policy Institute, Feb. 12, 2013

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics occupational data for Iowa tells us … that Iowa was employing 6,000 fewer metal workers of all kinds in 2011 than it did in 2008. How, then, do we reconcile the claim that industry cannot find enough skilled metalworkers when it appears there are thousands of previously employed metalworkers still idle? Did they all retire?

—David Swenson, economist, Iowa State University, in Carole Jesiolowski’s “Is There Really a Welder Shortage?,” Welders & Gases Today, June 8, 2012

When in doubt … welders.

After the umpteenth suit-and-tie to the right of Rand Paul tells me welding school is what separates lazy and unskilled America from a job, well, I want to throw WA Alloy Helper Pliers at them. (I buy all my welding equipment from Huber Supply, 50010.)

Jesiolowski’s short must-read suggests that a shortage of welders possibly has been chronic. (I am qualified to opine on this as my father retired the trophy for Worst Weekend Welder.) The distinction may be ample rookies vs. fewer high-skill welders.

Shierholz’s terse must-read—and all she publishes—is an acquired Washington tradition for conservatives. She is not a progressive. She is a flat-out unapologetic liberal concerned about clear language and facts to describe our glorious new-normal structural unemployment. (It is understood that she is read late at night by candlelight in the White House.)

There are mysteries within our labor economy. The Great American Welders Debate is not one of them.

David Swenson crushes the conservatives. He enjoys a distinguished economic pedigree, topped off by a Bachelor of Rhymes, Cheyenne-Eagle Butte Kindergarten, Eagle Butte, S.D., 1961. He asks: Did they all retire? Discuss.

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