Often companies point to a shortage of talent as a reason for continued job openings. A recent survey of human resources managers found that roughly half of large U.S. companies report a shortage of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics skills (STEM), to which they attribute lower productivity. Economists argue, however, that if there really was a lack of talent availability, wages would rise. Yet wages have remained stagnant over the past year. So, the question arises, is there really a skills gap, and if so, in which fields?
A recent report from Brookings looked at U.S. job openings data – as a measure of job hiring difficulty - to determine which fields are experiencing real skills shortages. Experts estimate that the average job vacancy lasts for approximatly 20 days.
Since busineses invest heaviliy in sourcing the right workers, with one survey finding that the average U.S. company spends $3,500 per new hire in job advertising costs and human resources staff, lengthy searches for the right talent can be a costly proposition for employers.
Median Duration of Vacacies in Days by Minimum Educational Requirements
The report found that job openings for STEM positions take longer to fill than openings in other fields. STEM openings requiring a Ph.D. or other professional degree remain open for an average of 50 days as compared to 33 days for non-STEM vacancies. And healthcare and computer openings are advertised 23 and 15 days longer than openings for non-STEM occupations. The report concludes that the skills common to STEM occupations are in short supply relative to demand and are thus valued more by employers.
According to the report, in 2013 there were more than 2.3 million STEM jobs available at over 50,000 companies in the United States. In Missouri, for example, the Missouri Department of Economic Development says that there are eight STEM jobs open for every one STEM job seeker.
Time to Fill an Open Position, by Occupation
Brookings also looked at the reposting of vacancies and found that healthcare and STEM positons had a higher rate of reposting suggesting that hiring is harder in those fields.
“Hard-to-fill vacancies take longer to fill often because of a lack of qualified candidates. Yet, there are also a large number of low-skilled occupations that take a long time to fill because employers face high turnover and a constant need to recruit new employees.” ~Jonathan Rothwell, Senior Research Associate and Associate Fellow at Metropolitan Policy Program