“This was really eye-opening for me”: Fed’s Raskin shocked at low quality of work at local job fair

June 17, 2013

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.

4 comments

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Why is she surprised?

The jobs stimulus was all government work, nothing sustainable.

There is no investment being made in small business or Main Street America which is the backbone of long term quality employment. The Fed has put it’s money into propping up the equities market to preserve wealth. That doesn’t create jobs either.

The politicians and people in her position are completely out of touch with the problems facing the majority of Americans.

Posted by Fudo23 | Report as abusive

Most high paying jobs today are available only through networking; i.e., you have to know someone. This is why job fairs basically deal only in entry level and temp work.

Those who have climbed even a few rungs of the ladder are quick to pull it up after them and we are developing a polar class structure in this country.

Posted by Adam_Smith | Report as abusive

These anecdotes are telling about the situation in certain quartiles of the job market and I would argue far more significant than the data flow of drab numbers. There is arguably some scope for growth –not due to mean reversion toward the economy’s fictional trend growth rate– through some releveraging via household debt but this isn’t sustainable. At one extreme, we have Greg Mankiw’s screed in defence of the so-called 1%; there are enough holes from a philosophical and economic perspective in that document to not warrant a serious response but back in the real world there remains a real job market out there that gives people nothing but hope for a precarious livelihood at best. Is this the way forward for sustainable growth for the populace at large or further volatility in the real economy and financial markets? I suspect the latter. May the Great Moderation R.I.P.

Posted by Arijit_Banik | Report as abusive

I found job fairs to be generally a waste of time unless they’re focused on a specific skill set or group. Mostly companies advertising for hard-to-fill positions even in a lousy economy. There’s a reason they’re hard to fill.

Yes, it is eye-opening to see the lack of opportunity for high school graduates in 21st Century America. Wages are kept low by an unending stream of illegals competing for low skilled jobs and high taxes on business activity, which account to up to 48% (when you add state, local, and federal) in some jurisdictions.

A little freedom might be nice.

Posted by ArmsMerchant | Report as abusive