There’s a phenomenon in our job market called open jobs: jobs that employers say they would fill immediately if the right candidate showed up. This statistic has been measured monthly since 2000, and has typically been between three and five million, or 2.5% to 3.5% of the civilian labor force. Open jobs are signs of optimism; they’re very real opportunities. In today’s unbelievably strong job market, a market that has been unprecedentedly strong for 25 consecutive months, there are 11 million of them – nearly 7% of the workforce – and that number has been rock-solid consistent – give or take a small variance – for 18 months running. It’s mind boggling.
So with all the job creation going on, why are there still so many open jobs? The universally accepted reason given by employers is that the right candidate – hidden meaning: perfect – hasn’t appeared. That’s no longer a good reason; it’s a stubborn, persistent illusion.
It’s time to fish or cut bait, dear employers, and fill those jobs already – and there’s no better time to do it than now, in what continues to be the strongest job market in history. For perspective’s sake, in January, the civilian labor force numbered 165.8 million. Of that number, 160.1 million were employed. Now, if you’re asking where, in the difference of 5,7 million, 11 million jobs would fit, the answer is that they would immediately grow the size of the civilian labor, and with it, productivity.
Productivity! With all the talk about our powerful, consistently record-setting job market, the envy of the world, the focus has always been where you’d expect: jobs, unemployment rate, layoffs, and all other predictable labor statistics.
But let’s look at this from a different angle and as a different issue: the cost of keeping a job open. Every day a job remains open, revenue opportunities are lost. Productivity is defined as the revenue generated by the production of goods or services per hour worked. If we continue to look at open jobs as an employment issue, we’ll get no further than that, as we have been all along. But if we look at filling open jobs in terms of economic growth, we’ve got something.
Measuring productivity is not uniform, or even thoroughly objective. That said, I’ve taken the liberty of merging data from six sources, not to come up with a statistical mean, but to find a starting point for my assumption that filling open jobs will lead directly to growth: company top lines, national GDP, and even the global economy. If employers looked at this as growth and not as cost, the rest would become an easy consensus.
I’m comfortable with one source that says the global cost of non-revenue-producing jobs is $8.5 trillion. That’s a lot of money. Now, with the estimated global GDP (Source: World Bank) at $97 trillion, the loss of productivity worldwide due to vacant jobs is roughly 9% of global GDP. With the US’s GDP at $23 trillion, or 24% of the world’s, it’s safe to assume that our share of productivity loss is at least $2 trillion, probably more because much of our productivity is in high-revenue services and out-of-whack health care costs. Could our lost productivity number be $3 trillion? Sure. But the point should be clear.
Aligned with an economy that’s rapidly bringing down inflation, growing jobs like mushrooms in a forest, moving ahead with the most aggressive infrastructure plan since the 1930s, launching the CHIPS and Science Act and assertively pivoting to American-made products, I can’t think of one argument for keeping jobs vacant. Cost cutting? Wrong time for that. Efficiency? Another word for cost-cutting. Caution regarding a perceived upcoming recession? Pessimism. Fortune favors the brave, and this is the time.
Employers must (1) Take the bold step to fill those jobs already, and with it, (2) start thinking in terms of what they’re doing to promote our national interest. Backyard provincial thinking has no place in the 21st century.
Just think of what a $2 trillion increase in productivity would do: expand the size of the workforce, reduce unemployment, generate revenue and profitability, lead to new industries and facilities, bolster Social Security and other badly-needed human services and secure our position as the world’s leading economy for generations to come.
The more I think about it, the more I see both the opportunity and the fallacy of open jobs.
Eli Amdur has been providing individualized career and executive coaching, as well as corporate leadership advice since 1997. For 15 years he taught graduate leadership courses at FDU. He has been a regular writer for this and other publications since 2003. You can reach him at [email protected] or 201-357-5844.