Despite High Unemployment, Some Calif. Jobs Empty Even an unemployment rate approaching 10 percent, some California employers are having a tough time finding qualified workers. That's especially true for health care workers, engineers and bio-technicians. There's an army of unemployed, but they don't have the right skills for the jobs available.
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Despite High Unemployment, Some Calif. Jobs Empty

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Despite High Unemployment, Some Calif. Jobs Empty

Despite High Unemployment, Some Calif. Jobs Empty

Despite High Unemployment, Some Calif. Jobs Empty

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  • Transcript

Even an unemployment rate approaching 10 percent, some California employers are having a tough time finding qualified workers. That's especially true for health care workers, engineers and bio-technicians. There's an army of unemployed, but they don't have the right skills for the jobs available.

DAVID GORN: I'm David Gorn. Here in California, the unemployment numbers haven't been this bad since 1940. Right now they're hovering above 12 percent. But in the halls of this San Francisco hospital, there is a little bit of hope. It seems that here and at other medical centers there are quite a few jobs where they are actually having trouble filling them.

Ms. CHERYL HARDIN (Job Recruiter, UCSF Medical Center): There's been several positions that stay open four, five, six, eight months before they're filled -even now.

GORN: Cheryl Hardin says she knows it sounds odd. She's a job recruiter at UCSF Medical Center. And she says despite double-digit unemployment throughout the state, there are a slew of medical jobs that remain posted for months. And a few of them, she says, are just perpetually open.

Ms. HARDIN: Physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech language pathologists, nuclear medicine techs can stay open for a very long time.

(Soundbite of medical center)

GORN: Up on the 15th floor of the neonatal intensive care unit at UCSF, Becky Hancock has one of those jobs. She's a respiratory therapist.

Ms. BECKY HANCOCK (Respiratory Therapist, UCSF): We're the paramedics of the hospital. There's a lot of people that have never heard of a respiratory therapist.

GORN: And that's just fine with her, Hancock says. Everyone has heard of the shortage of doctors and nurses, but the real demand right now, she says, is for the ancillary jobs in health care.

Ms. HANCOCK: I feel fortunate. I mean, I just feel blessed. And the fact that, you know, I have a job that is probably not going to go away anytime soon.

GORN: Across the country, labor experts say, there is thin layer of high tech and higher tech jobs, particularly in green technology and in medicine that actually has grown in the past few years.

Dr. SYLVIA ALLEGRETTO (Labor Economist, UC Berkeley): About the only industry that is holding up at this point is health services.

GORN: Sylvia Allegretto is a labor economist at UC Berkeley.

Dr. ALLEGRETTO: The jobs that do require high degrees of education, experience or skill sometimes are still hard to fill just (unintelligible) to the fact that there are not many folks who could fill those jobs.

GORN: The buzz word in labor policy these days is retraining, especially for the millions of laid off construction and manufacturing workers. The problem is, though, says Allegretto, it's hard to extend advance training to that many people.

Dr. ALLEGRETTO: Remember what we're talking about. We're talking about an economy that since December of �07 has lost well over seven million jobs. And officially we have over 15 million folks who are unemployed.

GORN: As she puts it�

Dr. ALLEGRETTO: I'm a labor economist. I'm not a miracle worker.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Dr. ALLEGRETTO: Yeah, unfortunately it doesn't look good.

GORN: Except in just a few niche jobs where demand still outpaces supply.

For NPR News, I'm David Gorn.

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