Friday, March 31, 2017

La, La, La; I Can't Hear You

I recently stopped in at a job fair, and was surprised to find construction companies looking for employees. In the past, they didn't have to recruit.

I talked to a company representative, picked up a squeezable plastic-cone token, and noted that, at least here in Sacramento, he seemed to date the collapse in construction to 2004, not 2008.

This blogger argues that recruiting is going badly for construction companies because they have become inured to paying low wages, and are stubbornly-resisting increasing wages. An older population, and a stable-or-declining pool of Mexican workers means a smaller pool from which to draw workers. The market is sending a signal employers don't want to hear:
What’s mystifying here is the fact that capitalist homebuilders and their cheerleaders at the Journal are, well, mystified over why Americans don’t seem to want to work construction. There’s a simple reason why Americans aren’t filling construction jobs—and the construction industry appears to be missing it.

...And yet the market sharpies collectively are throwing up their hands over the construction labor shortage instead of homing in on the obvious solution: Pay people more—a lot more if need be. The executives Olick interviewed didn’t mention pay, although she did note that “wages in the residential building industry are growing at twice the rate of wages in the overall economy.” The Journal took a supply-side approach to a solution: Go easier on immigrants, legal and illegal, so that business will have a larger supply of people willing to do the work at the wages on offer.

...The second view is common among many employers. And it is bound up with a more generalized sociopathy about wages and pay that took root during the Great Recession. Companies slashed payroll to survive and then took extraordinary measures to keep payroll costs down even as the economy expanded. For several years, American workers didn’t get a raise, on average, and they kept showing up for work and applying for jobs. And these low wages were built into the typical company’s business model. So why should an employer bother to raise wages aggressively now? If it becomes an article of faith that you never have to raise wages, it is easy to conclude that the reason you can’t hire is that Americans aren’t willing to do the job.

...But that’s not how the world, or business, works. There’s no such thing as a job an American won’t do. There are such things as jobs that Americans in your geographic area won’t do at the conditions on which you are offering them.

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