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The story of employment in recent years is the story of how the high unemployment rate doesn't tell the real story. The real story, according to several distribution executives we've spoken to and surveyed, is that among those unemployed, there simply aren't enough workers with the right skills or education to fill the jobs that are available (see Distributors Looking to Hire Face Challenges).
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Data from a new Brookings Institute study supports this claim. Most of the jobs advertised in metropolitan areas required more education than the average adult had attained. In fact, for every adult (age 25+) with a bachelor's degree or higher there were on average 5.6 jobs available for them in 2011.
And the demand for more highly educated workers has increased in the past few years, according to the study.
It's not solely the result of the recession. This education gap existed before the economic collapse, according to the study. We're just noticing it more now that the unemployment rate is sitting stubbornly above 8 percent. What the recession did is increase the gap.
Many stable and established companies turned toward improving technology and automation during the recession to cut costs and improve productivity – taking the place of many of those workers with less education. But higher-skilled and educated workers are harder to replace with technology, and some would argue that they're needed even more to ensure that technology and automation continues to meet the needs of the company.
As for that high unemployment rate? The study says that will likely be sticking around until the housing market recovers and industrial demand returns to more sustainable levels. As those industries grow, so does the demand for less educated workers.