“This was really eye-opening for me”: Fed’s Raskin shocked at low quality of work at local job fair
The first portion of Federal Reserve Governor Sarah Bloom Raskin’s remarks to the Roosevelt Institute earlier this month were pretty standard central bank fodder. Raskin, on the dovish side of Fed monetary leanings, said U.S. unemployment was still too high, and far more progress was needed in bringing a somnolent job market back to life.
But the second half of her comments offered an unusually personal look at one Fed official’s dismay with the country’s economic situation. Stumbling into a job fair near her house, Raskin was stunned by the generally low quality of positions available. In her own words:
I became interested in this question of quality somewhat by accident. I did something atypical one day. I decided on my way into work I would stop at a jobs fair. There was a jobs fair at a local community college close to my home and I thought, I’m going to, you know, instead of pounding through all this heavy data that we typically look at at the board of governors, let me just go into this job fair. It turned out to be a really interesting morning, I have to say.
I should preface this by saying – purely anecdotal here, this is not something that is going to count as hard science or pass much muster in terms of statistical significant. But it was really interesting to me.
I went in and I have to say the kinds of jobs that were being offered surprised me. There were a number of restaurant jobs, some jobs from the military. There was one job from a community bank. Then there were a slew of jobs from, of all places, swimming pool companies. I thought that was kind of interesting. When I inquired about what these jobs were, they were lifeguard jobs, which I thought also was quite telling because back in the day to be a lifeguard I didn’t think quite required an advanced degree. These were the kinds of jobs we got in high school summers, I thought.
I was about to leave when I did see a sign that actually said IT jobs. So I thought, ‘here we go, here is going to be something pretty significant.’
So I went up to the person behind the both and they said, ‘we’ve got two kinds of IT jobs here: we’ve got armed security jobs, and we’ve got cyber security.’
So I thought, well, I’m probably not the armed security type, so tell me about the cyber security jobs.
This is how you go about getting it. You take your resume and you put it into a database. And this firm essentially collects resumes and then they kind of troll for government contracts. And when they find a government contract that might use your resume then they call you. Then you might actually get a job.
‘So what I need to do is put in my resume and then I’ll be able to get this job?’ And she said ‘yes.’
And I said: ‘while I’m waiting can I go to some other firms and throw my resume into their databases as well?’
And she said ‘oh no, you can’t do that, because you’re going to sign a letter of intent.’ And that letter of intent is basically an exclusivity agreement that says that by putting your resume in here you agree to not put your resume anywhere else.
I said ‘well, gosh, that’s going to be kind of rough. But tell me: what are the percentage chances that I’ll get a job?’
‘You know, we’re doing pretty well. Maybe a 25 percent chance.’
‘How do these jobs pay?’
‘They pay by the hour.’
‘Do they pay benefits?’
‘No benefits, it’s a straight hourly job. And it’s temporary so it’s going to be until the government contract is completed.’
This was really eye-opening for me.