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Many open jobs but still can't find one? There's a mismatch between job seekers and what's available

ABC11 Eyewitness News
ABC11 Eyewitness News
 2021-09-24

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For some North Carolinians the end of the week is more of a OMG than a TGIF.

"The thing is you got to keep pressing on," Durham resident Faye Ellerbe-Gonzales said. "That's the only way you survive in life."

Gonzales is among those still unemployed in North Carolina, despite the apparent labor shortage provoking pleas from restaurants and hospitals
for help. Ellerbe-Gonzales said she's been looking for a job for more than a year after the pandemic forced her to close her catering business. She also wants people to know she does not enjoy living off unemployment insurance.

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"No. I go to food banks, Meals on Wheels delivers my dog treats and food," she said. "And I go to different churches that have food and that's you sustain. Really."

She's looking specifically for a job as a local delivery driver or office manager; she also wants a position that won't risk her safety in the pandemic.

"There are people not wearing masks, people basically not abiding by policies and procedures. I have to be safe, too, when I go to work."

Her experience is one shared by many job seekers as unemployment, while falling, continues to hover above pre-pandemic levels. The mismatch between jobs that people want and the jobs available are also revealing differences in the skills people have and the skills that are needed, plus differing expectations on wages, benefits - even commutes.

"The benchmark for a labor shortage isn't zero available jobs unfilled and zero unemployed," Kathryn Edwards, an analyst at RAND Corporation, explained. "There's always going to be some, and the some that is normal is very hard to define even in the best of times but it's especially hard in a pandemic. Think through the logistics of someone getting a job right now - one in four private sector jobs do not have a paid sick day."

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According to job recruiter site Monster.com, these are the top 10 most searched positions in North Carolina over the last six months:

1) Software Developers, Applications

2) Customer Service Representatives

3) Sales Representatives, Wholesale and Manufacturing, Except Technical and Scientific Products

4) Business Operations Specialists, All Other

5) Secretaries and Administrative Assistants, Except Legal, Medical, and Executive

6) General and Operations Managers

7) Managers, All Other

8) Management Analysts

9) Registered Nurses

10) Heavy and Tractor-Trailer Truck Drivers

The top 10 most advertised jobs, however, are different.

1) Registered Nurses

2) Software Developers, Applications

3) Retail Salespersons

4) Sales Representatives, Wholesale and Manufacturing, Except Technical and Scientific Products

5) Laborers and Freight, Stock, and Material Movers, Hand

6) Customer Service Representatives

7) Managers, All Other

8) Heavy and Tractor-Trailer Truck Drivers

9) First-Line Supervisors of Retail Sales Workers

10) Combined Food Preparation and Serving Workers, Including Fast Food

The top 10 most sought after skills are these:

1) Customer Service

2) Scheduling

3) Cleaning

4) Sales

5) Budgeting

6) Repair

7) Customer Contact

8) Project Management

9) Retail Industry Knowledge

10) Teaching

As Ellerbe-Gonzalez continues her search, she said she knows she will have to be flexible.

"That's what I'm doing now. I'm re-evaluating."

According to Edwards, however, the job market won't stabilize until the pandemic subsides.

"I would step back from people not taking a job or they don't want to work to, what does a worker need to safely and securely engage in the labor market and maintain their position right now? I think for most localities, the real question is what is your vaccination rate, what percentage have you reached, and what is your plan for in-person child care and in-person school should vaccination remain low and the Delta variant continue to expand."

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