News / Economy

Report Shows Skills Gap Boosts US Unemployment

Job seekers line up to register to attend a job fair held in Atlanta, Georgia, May 30, 2013.
Job seekers line up to register to attend a job fair held in Atlanta, Georgia, May 30, 2013.
Jim Randle
The U.S. unemployment rate is expected to improve slightly when the government releases new data on Friday. Economists tell the Bloomberg financial news service that the jobless rate will probably fall one-tenth of a percent to 7.5 percent, while the economy will have a net gain of 165,000 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 mis-match 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 said higher education did not guarantee high levels of skill.  She said 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,” said Clark.

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 destroyed some jobs, changed the nature of work, but eventually created more and often better jobs.

MIT's David Rotman, who monitors the university's research, said studies showed 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, and said some scholars thought the nature of work was 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.

You May Like

Guatemala Mudslide Death Toll Rises to 86

Death toll is expected to continue to rise as emergency crews dig through tons of earth for an estimated 350 people still missing More

Debris Found in Search for Missing Ship

Objects located Sunday have not yet been confirmed to be from the 240 meter container ship, El Faro, which disappeared in the eye of Hurricane Joaquin, according to US Coast Guard More

Survivor: Gunman Spared 'Lucky One' to Give Police Message

Law enforcement official says a manifesto of several pages was recovered; contents not revealed More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europei
Luis Ramirez
October 02, 2015 4:45 PM
European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video First Self-Driving Truck Debuts on European Highways

The first automated semi-trailer truck started its maiden voyage Friday, Oct. 2, on a European highway. The Daimler truck called 'Actros' is the first potentially mass-produced truck whose driver will be required only to monitor the situation, similar to the role of an airline captain while the plane is in autopilot mode. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Migrant Influx Costs Europe, But Economy Could Benefit

The influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants is testing Europe’s ability to respond – especially in the poorer Balkan states. But some analysts argue that Europe will benefit by welcoming the huge numbers of young people – many of them well educated and willing to work. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

Video New Fabric Helps Fight Dust-Related Allergies

Many people around the world suffer from dust-related allergies, caused mainly by tiny mites that live in bed linen. Polish scientists report they have successfully tested a fabric that is impenetrable to the microscopic creatures. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video Burkina Faso's Economy Deeply Affected by Political Turmoil

Political turmoil in Burkina Faso over the past year has taken a toll on the economy. The transitional government is reporting nearly $70 million in losses in the ten days that followed a short-lived coup by members of the presidential guard earlier this month. The crisis shut businesses and workers went on strike. With elections on the horizon, Emilie Iob reports on what a return to political stability can do for the country's economic recovery.

Video Fleeing Violence, Some Syrians Find Refuge in Irbil

As Syrians continue to flee their country’s unrest to seek new lives in safer places, VOA Persian Service reporter Shepol Abbassi visited Irbil, where a number Syrians have taken refuge. During the religious holidy of Eid al-Adha, the city largely shut down, as temperatures soared. Amy Katz narrates his report.

Video Nigeria’s Wecyclers Work for Reusable Future in Lagos

The streets and lagoons of Africa's largest city - Lagos, Nigeria - are often clogged with trash, almost none of which gets recycled. One company is trying to change that. Chris Stein reports for VOA from Lagos.

Video Sketch Artist Helps Catch Criminals, Gives a Face to Deceased

Police often face the problem of trying to find a crime suspect based on general descriptions that could fit hundreds of people in the vicinity of the crime. In these cases, an artist can use information from witnesses to sketch a likeness that police can show the public via newspapers and television. But, as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, such sketches can also help bring back faces of the dead.

Video Thailand Set to Build China-like Internet Firewall

Thai authorities are planning to tighten control over the Internet, creating a single international access point so they can better monitor content. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok on what is being called Thailand’s own "Great Firewall."

Video Croatian Town’s War History Evokes Empathy for Migrants

As thousands of Afghanistan, Iraqi and Syrian migrants pass through Croatia, locals are reminded of their own experiences with war and refugees in the 1990s. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from the town of Vukovar, where wartime scars still are visible today.

Video Long Drought Affecting California’s Sequoias

California is suffering under a historic four-year drought and scientists say even the state's famed sequoia trees are feeling the pain. The National Park Service has started detailed research to see how it can help the oldest living things on earth survive. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs

World Currencies


Rates may not be current.