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U.S. Unemployment: Three Million Jobs in America are Waiting to be Filled

There is another side to the U.S. unemployment problem: Believe it or not, there are three million jobs going unfilled.

Employers can't seem to find the right match for more than 200,000 manufacturing jobs alone.

The transportation, utilities and trades sectors have almost half a million jobs open, waiting for the right applicant.

These positions are for vocational or skilled workers, who are in short supply.

Caterpillar Inc. (NYSE: CAT) is but one example of a company that can't find skilled applicants for job openings. The company recently attempted to hire 26 employees, but nobody applied.

Bill Begal, who runs a Rockville, MD-based disaster-cleanup company, told Bloomberg News that he has spent almost $2,000 since March on help-wanted ads in newspapers, websites, and state employment services up and down the East Coast to find sales and administrative staff.

"I want people to come out and work for me," said Begal, 42, whose teams respond to hurricanes, such as Katrina in New Orleans and other natural disasters. "Where are they? I just don't see it."

Robert Funk, chairman and chief executive of Express Employment Professionals, a national staffing firm based in Oklahoma City that helped 335,000 people land jobs last year, told the New York Times: "We currently have 18,000 open job orders we can't fill."
How can so many jobs remain unfilled with U.S. unemployment so high?

One explanation is that many would-be workers lack the necessary skills to fill those positions. "There is higher demand for skilled jobs and less demand for unskilled positions than we've seen coming out of past recessions," Funk said.

Gabriel Shaoolian, chief executive of Blue Fountain Media, a Web design and marketing company with 85 employees in New York, said he had 10 openings right now because his company could not find enough highly qualified people with technical backgrounds.

There is also a growing need for tradesmen, such as auto mechanics, appliance repairmen, plumbers, electricians and more.

Students that take vocational training in high school can graduate on a path that pushes them toward a career. But many instead opt for college and end up not graduating, and lack the skills for many of these in-demand positions.

More young people should give the trades a longer look; salaries in many cases are quite good. And a student beginning his career immediately after high school has a four-year head start compared to classmates who start their job search after college.

The skill gap is widening

Too few young people are learning trades, so as older workers retire many aren't replaced.

For example, one-third of all trades workers in Alabama reaching the age of 55 are retiring, and a lack of qualified welders has delayed the construction of a power plant in Georgia.

"Too many people have turned up their noses at trade school to go to college, and now I am paying for it," said Matt Sher, owner of Day & Night/All Service in New Hyde Park, NY.

"I need workers who have gone through trade school and have taken certain courses. But I see a lot of unemployed college graduates saddled with huge student loan debts. They don't have the skills that I need," he continued. "The lack of skilled technicians is slowing our growth to add markets as aggressively as we may want."

Discovery Channel's Mike Rowe is Seeking Solutions

Mike Rowe, the host of Discovery's Dirty Jobs, is quite passionate about correcting the lack of blue-collar job training. His companies, Mike Rowe Works and Profoundly Disconnected are attempting to make a difference by bridging the gap between job requirements and the skills of job seekers.

According to its website, Mike Rowe Works is "a trade resource center and non-profit foundation designed to reinvigorate the skilled trades."

"My goal here is to challenge the absurd belief that an expensive four-year education is the best path for the most people, and confront the outdated stereotypes that continue to drive kids and parents away from a whole list of worthwhile careers," Rowe said. "Many of the best opportunities that exist today require a skill, not a diploma."

And salaries for blue-collar jobs are higher than you might think.

Take a look at these examples of jobs that don't require a college degree, but require skilled employees:

  • Elevator Repairmen and Installers

    Average Annual Salary: $74,000
  • Subway and Streetcar Drivers/Operators

    Average Annual Salary: $59,000

  • Rotary Drill Operators, Oil and Gas

    Average Annual Salary: $58,540

  • Electricians

    Average Annual Salary: $52,920

  • Brick Mason

    Average Annual Salary: $50,760

And here are some trade jobs salaries from

  • Aircraft Painter I is $37,384
  • Assembly Supervisor is $57,972
  • Machine Operator I is $29,690
  • Machine Operator III is $40,763
  • Videographer is $57,638
  • Plumber I is $40,873
  • Crane Operator III is $43,161

Currently, the toughest jobs to find qualified employees for are:

  • Sales representative
  • Machine operator/assembler/production worker
  • Nurse
  • Truck driver
  • Software developer
  • Engineer
  • Marketing professional
  • Accountant
  • Mechanic
  • IT manager/network administrator

There are 11.8 million Americans out of work. The current unemployment rate is 7.6%.

Nationally there are three million unfilled jobs waiting for anyone with the right skill to fill the vacancy.

It might be time to explore adding more vocational tech class to high school programs.

The Fed also plays a role in hampering companies from investing in new jobs. Read here.

Join the conversation. Click here to jump to comments…

  1. James MORENCY | July 30, 2013

    I have long said if the world broke down tomorrow, no computers or electricity, would someone still be willing to pay you for what you do?

  2. Malcolm Baird | July 30, 2013

    There is a built-in prejudice or snobbery against any sort of manual work, even when great skill is involved. This has its origins in Europe and the developing countries, but it has spread to the USA through immigration. Families that have spent years scraping a living at ill- paid and insecure jobs, look to higher education as the best way for their kids to have a future.

    Perhaps that trend has gone too far and there is a huge vested interest in having more and more education without much regard for its usefulness.

    • Frank H. Marchant | July 30, 2013

      What you have said is very true Malcolm. There is a prejudice and snobbery too. However supply and demand could easily turn things around quickly. We need more plumbers, electricians, and the less skilled labor we have, the more they will be paid.

      We need to bring Vo-tech back to high schools so kids can start their lives with a useful skill. Not everybody is college material, instead of pretending everybody is, lets help those who aren't have successful careers.

  3. Rose | July 30, 2013

    Why don't these employers try some on the job training, for people with college degrees? They are obviously teachable and dedicated. if they were able to obtain a degree. So if these employers really need people to fill these positions, this seems like a no-brainer. Even when having a degree, certificate, license, etc…, it is never enough and they want you to have experience.

    • Dusty | July 30, 2013

      Most businesses are owned and run by people who really have no idea how to set up and operate a real training program. Mostly they have big egos and will not accept or allow any ideas they do not already have. A real effort to start and run a real training program is therefore impossible within their companies. Beyond that, if a company does operate a real training program, other companies who need competent people will steal their trained employees. The Federal Government has corporate tax breaks for training programs but in most cases the 'training' is fraudulent because of its inadequacy and pathetically inept execution.

      An answer to all this that might work is for high school graduates with aspirations to go to a local Junior College where they can continue as an extension of high school, live at home, lowest costs.

      Some college credit-hours will always help in a job search. A two-year degree is an excellent start. For those who obtain the 2-year degree, admission to a 4-year school is easier and a full degree can be obtained in 2 more years. (one of my kids did this.) That reduces costs, provides two degrees, has a much higher probability of completing the program. The 2-year degree alone is a big plus in a job search.

      Remember that half the kids who walk into the first day of college will not make it to the first day of the second semester. Half of those will not make it to Year-2. Then it is a 'half' not making it to succeeding years. A few drop out during the senior year but mostly because of money or illness. It works out that ~5% of those first-day kids graduate.

      Given some college credit or a degree, then going to a decent trade school, the possibilities are better. Some college, any college, teaches much more than just the course material. The student is learning to 'think' and to focus and to manage effort.

      As an example: I completed a major 4-year college with minimal financial resources. That helped during (at the time, mandatory military service, also called "The Draft") time in Service. Once a civilian again in the midst of times as difficult as now I attended a trade school; because I had the trade school I was hired into a good training program within a company and worked for them for a year (requested length of time); went on to another company at double the salary and completed a career where my annual income was commensurate with other peer graduates of my 4-year college. Then I wanted to change careers and did with the help of a second trade school. With completion of that second trade school and the record of my first career, I was hired to another company in another kind of industry and did well there. I was able to retire (well past 'Full Retirement Age') and am able to get by adequately financially.

      Note that most of my own efforts needed 'thinking outside the box.' I worked all night for most of my careers. The day jobs were always full. My hands and often my clothing stayed grimy. It was necessary to manage my time and stay focused on my goals. I made a decent living wage to provide for my family.

      Too many people and kids who are 'looking for a job' only think in terms of wearing a suit, sitting at a computer desk from 9 to 5 playing Solitaire, making a top 5% salary.

      • Frank H. Marchant | July 30, 2013

        Well said Dusty and well done my hat is off to you sir! You are what make this country great! The line, almost hidden in your story really tells it all, "I made a decent wage to provide for my family." That is really what this is all about! If high school kids without a skill become college drop outs how then do they provide for their families? This could be the reason so many are jobless and are moving home. I have to ask you. Would you have not been better off had you been enrolled is a Vo-tech education classes in high school? Your career could have started after you graduated High School and all of those night hours might have been cut a bit. Those two years of college might have been accomplished while you were still in high school taking Vo-tech classes!

    • Colleen | August 1, 2013

      I was thinking the exact same thing, Rose. In fact, I'd love to learn mechanics in an "on the job training" capacity.

      In the career personality Myers-Briggs testing at my college, the number one position identified for me was auto mechanic. It was on the next page and I never saw it, and got my degree in Paralegal Studies/The Arts. I tinker w/ my gas powered lawn equipment all the time, and my computer too… just enough to "keep it interesting". ha! =) …unemployed, mid-50s …I'm game.

    • terry | April 7, 2014

      i agree…but some of the employers might object, they say that it's the public schools' job to ready kids for the job market, and that for them to train people would be too costly…but i think that the employers should train the people…start them off at minimum wage during the training period, but AHA…they might not get a lot of takers if they did that..

  4. Lorne DeWitt | July 30, 2013

    Oh quit whining, it's time for businesses to stop passing the buck and blaming all their ills on everyone else. Get off your butts and implement an apprenticeship training program. Most all the people retiring today learned their skills that way. But you'd rather sit back and cry about your misfortunes than getting inventive and become more resourceful. That tells me two things, one; No wonder so many businesses are failing today, and two; Were I in charge, you'd be looking for a job for not fixing the problem and because I'd have had to step in and do your your job for you!

    That's the problem with America today, no common sense. If it's not written in a book somewhere, nobody knows what the hell to do! At one time, before a plumber became a plumber, he or she'd have been a plumber's assistant.

  5. Peter Hallman | July 30, 2013

    These employers are full of bull. Economics 101 – Its simple supply and demand. If you raise the wage/salary the supply of workers available to you as an employer will increase.

    Nuff said.

    • Frank Marchant | July 30, 2013

      Peter, The problem is not the wages. $74,000 for an elevator repairman is a pretty
      good income! I am sure the line would reach around the block if there was zero skill involved in doing the job!. The problem is there aren't many skilled employees to hirer. You are correct about supply and demand. The very reason these jobs pay so well is there aren't enough employees to go around to fill these jobs!

  6. Brad M | July 30, 2013

    There are some truths here about a change in educational/vocational/carreer choices and paths. My grandfather graduated with a senior high school class that were planning to work the farm, work in the factory, fix things, or join the military. Since then, many professions we need have become harder to find because now we are all convinced we will have and should have a white collar job behind a desk. That being said, if those companies who need to hire these people realize this trend, they should take proper economic steps and offer on the job training programs, or support and recriut from votech schools more. All too often though, companies will not do much on the job training, due to expense, and sometimes fail to promote their hiring position well enough.

    • Frank H. Marchant | August 1, 2013

      I think the problem is, school teachers do not normally do, "manual labor". Nor do the Superintendents of schools whom ultimately decide on the school curriculum. Unfortunately, as a group they tend to look down their, "collective noses" at anyone doing manual labor at all! I believe most educators want what is best for their students. Because this is not something they would consider for themselves:Blue Collar jobs are not something they want for their students either!

  7. JEHMD@AOL.COM | August 3, 2013

    My husband and I (in our early 60s) come from similar backgrounds. Both of our grandfathers were plumbers. Our fathers were electrical engineers. We are professionals ( a doctor and a lawyer). My husband often jokes that our families had the right occupations, but in the wrong generations. The grandfathers should have been the engineers, in the age of Howard Hughes. The fathers should have been the professionals, when they were respected and made a good living. He and I should have been the plumbers, as there is a need for skilled tradesmen, and they are well compensated.
    Along these same lines is the old joke: A man calls a plumber to his house to fix a leak. When the bill is presented, he exclaims: A hundred dollars an hour! I'm a neurosurgeon and I don't make that much per hour! The plumber replies: Neither did I when I was a neurosurgeon.

  8. go boom | October 28, 2013

    bankers , bean counters , accountants , personnel managers PROJECT MANAGEMENT ,
    HUMAN RESOURCES are all to blame ..

    if there were jobs with reasonable expations and superior pay them slots would get filled fast.

    its all corporate REPUBLICAN rhetoric spewing out of big businesses dirty mouths none stop…

  9. Tekthis | October 31, 2013

    I'm with go boom. The right-wingers and Libertarians always talk about this supply and demand but when the supply of blue-collar workers dries up they don't want to pay for the demand. If they cared so much about filling those positions they would increase the wage to attract those skilled people. It all comes back to "choices".

    I don't think manual labor is below me and I have worked my fair share of them but if I had to choose between making $15.00 an hour welding outside in the cold during winter or being paid $15.00 and hour + benefits sitting inside a nice heated building fixing a computer, I am taking the fixing computers job.

  10. Timothy W. arnes | November 22, 2013

    Skill requirements have escalated, and compensating pay has gone down (alot). People are no longer getting paid what they are worth. Employers feel that in the current recession, they can get away with that. Then the reality is presented to them. Why would they say that they can't find any qualified applicants? That's simply not true.

  11. Evan | November 26, 2013

    I find it very entertaining that the armchair genius who said there was no such thing as a decent traing program was himself taught in a training program on the job. Negativity in the extreme is your problem Dusty. Many corporations train their staff with success
    Mine did for instance; the small company that I own.

  12. American | December 20, 2013

    What about people (child abuse victims; those forcibly deprived of valid education etc) like myself (age 20 – 64 year) who are able & willing to learn skills; but cannot go to school while working full time job? The only way to truly do well in school is to go full-time which I cannot do. I must work full-time in order to pay rent & buy food. I do not have money for school; vo-tech or otherwise.

    How about these companies offer apprenticeship programs? They take in people age 18 – 64 who are willing to work hard and learn new skills. During the program; the company provide transportation to/from work site; pay our rent for us; and give us a small stipend. During this time we work 35 – 50 hours per week. After graduating; we are on contract to work for that company 35 – 50 hours per week for 1 – 3 years during which time we are paid 85% as much as the other employees ( as payment for our training). After that time is up; we are full-time permanent regular employees getting paid as much as the other employees & eligible for promotion.

    Rather than talk of how there are no workers; create the workers you need. This above described program would be a dream-come-true for lots of people including me. Take in people who know that they need to learn new skills and be open-minded. Mold us into the workers you need/want; rather than waiting for the perfect worker to come into your door. We need good paying jobs and would repay your investment with hard work and loyalty.

    Waiting for me to go to vo-tech school while still needing to work full-time to avoid homelessness is unfair & illogical to all involved; especially since many of the colleges & vo-tech schools are scams. Since most of the schools are scams; going to them does NOT mean I will get a job. Most of the training schools, vo-tech schools, & colleges in US are scams. They promise that if you graduate from them you will get jobs; but after you graduate from them; there is NO job out there for you. Many of the jobs on your list that employers supposedly are so desperately trying to hire for are in fact included in this sad list. As in people go to school training for these exact jobs you claim employers are desperately trying to hire for and graduate with certificate or degree in these jobs; only for there to be NO job for them after graduating! It is a giant scam.

    For me to go to school; someone must pay my tuition, rent, food, metro-card etc while I go to school; (this necessitate quitting my job so that I can have the time and energy to go to school) finding this is very likely impossible for me. And even if this happens; since most of the training centers, vo-tech schools, & colleges in US are scams; there will be no job for me after I graduate!

    I am a hardworker who is helpless & lives in fear.

    I & others like me need REAL answers!

  13. Kings fan | April 7, 2014

    There is no shortage of skills.employers have unrealistic expectations. You won't find someone with 20 years experience willing to work for minimum wage. Sorry.

  14. America | April 24, 2014

    Yes an Elevator Tech can make 74,000 a year but they leave out the part of breaking your body down day in and day out. Not to mention to reach that target salary you have to put in a lot of over-time, leaving the time to spend with your family and the time for yourself a bleak occasion. People don't realize that a lot of these positions require great physical abilities as well as critical thinking. The dream of going to college and hopefully nailing a job in a climate controlled area managing people under you is what keeps people inspired to finish college as well as the better salaries, and if they shall fail in the college world the next best thing is going to these skilled labor jobs. Give it time and they will wish they had stuck out school.

  15. August Mackemull Robinson | January 27, 2015

    High schools in my state don't have auto mechanic classes or even woodshop.. They can't even afford to stay open. We have been closing schools down. People can't afford to own a house let alone even paying taxes to pay for rural schools to stay open. Trade schools here have been offered by union halls that are paid by skilled trades paid by the hour of people working by the hour. It has been helping, but dang.. Why pay taxes on such things that don't give back to your community? Something has to change.. seems like they keep asking for more..

  16. tom gordon | August 12, 2015

    Very interesting article.I just retired after 35 years as an hvacr mechanic and was
    fortunate to do so at 62.There is a bias in this country towards people who actually work
    with their hands.White collar parents do not want to hear that their kids want to be
    plumbers,bricklayers etc.Doesn't fit their image,what would the people at the yacht club
    think?Until the day I retired,I did not stop learning.That's how rapid technology is moving
    in the hvac world.I've had apprentices with engineering degrees who were thankful to
    be accepted into a union apprenticeship and did very well for themselves.And to dispel
    a common myth,the union does not shelter you,if you don't learn and produce,then you
    know where the door is,good luck.The work was not easy,you sweat and you freeze and you learn to persevere.I commend any younger people who desire to learn a trade,
    you can do it.Just open your mind,ask lots of questions and pay attention.Any older
    hands who won't answer questions,well you really won't learn anything from them,other
    than bad habits.Just remember….stay the hell off facebook during working hours.You
    really don't want to be texting,while your other hand is inside a control panel.

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