RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning. I'm Renee Montagne.
STEVE INSKEEP, host:
And I'm Steve Inskeep. The U.S. economy has lost more than seven million jobs over the last couple of years. Employers, of course, say they routinely get dozens of applications for every job they have to fill. But there's a paradox here. For all the people looking for work, employers still have trouble filling some jobs. NPR's Jim Zarroli reports.
JIM ZARROLI: On any given morning, the research room in the New York Labor Department's Job Center in Brooklyn is crammed with people looking for work. Today, Eleanor LaBird, who was laid off from her job at a boutique in October, is sitting at a computer doing what she does every morning.
Ms. ELEANOR LABIRD: Basically going online every day trying to look for work.
ZARROLI: And when you go online, where do you go? What sites?
Ms. LABIRD: Monster, the government labor sites, and also like SnagAJob. It's kind of like a full time job just trying to find one.
ZARROLI: LaBird says she finds plenty of jobs online and applies for one or more every day. And to look at some of the sites she frequents, you might think this was a job hunters markets. The Conference Board regularly looks at online sites to count jobs, eliminating old and redundant postings.
And as of a week ago, it had counted 3.4 million job postings online. That's about half the number of jobs lost since this recession began. And many of the companies doing the postings have multiple positions to fill, so the number of available jobs those postings represent is even higher. With so many jobs to fill, why does the unemployment rate remain so high?
One obvious reason is what economists call the skills gap. Michelle Choina, who's been unemployed since last spring, says she always finds lots of medical jobs online.
Ms. MICHELLE CHOINA: Every hospital has listings for medical assistants or people - with employees, potential employees who are able to do EKGs, phlebotomy. I could do that.
ZARROLI: Except Choina can't do these jobs, because for now she lacks the training. Most applicants do, which is why hospitals need to go online looking for candidates.
There's also the issue of geography. Rathin Sinha is president of the job bank America's Job Exchange. He says available jobs aren't dispersed around the country evenly. And he says many jobs don't pay moving expenses. So even if applicants are willing to move, say, South Dakota, they may not be able to afford it.
Mr. RATHIN SINHA (President, America's Job Exchange): Some of these jobs are not really on the high end of the wage, you know, scale. So if somebody has to move, they most likely, they have to move on their own.
ZARROLI: Sinha says the number of jobs online is misleading in another way. He says right now we're in an employer's market, and companies are taking advantage of it.
Mr. SINHA: Given the overall economic condition, I think they are being more prudent, you know, and more selective in their hiring process. They have now, I think, a little bit of time and leverage to get a better candidate.
ZARROLI: Instead of choosing someone from the applications they receive, they're looking harder and they often post jobs online to find the right people.
There's another important reason the job market may not be as healthy as these Web sites suggest. The Labor Department says the economy has lost more than four million jobs in 2009. But that's a net loss. Ken Goldstein of the Conference Board says in reality there's a lot of churn in the economy.
Mr. KEN GOLDSTEIN (Economist, Conference Board): We have a very dynamic labor market all the time. There are always people who are moving into a job, moving out of a job, looking to move out of a job. And it's that friction - the friction between what's available and who's looking for something.
ZARROLI: Goldstein says even in a recession like this one, jobs are being created. What the Web sites don't show is that there are also a lot more people looking for work - people who've been laid off or people who've just graduated from college. And he says he it will probably be a long time, maybe even years, before the number of jobs catches up to the number of applicants.
Jim Zarroli, NPR News, New York.
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