Friday 2011-09-09

With the mean duration of unemployment is at "an unprecedented high" 1 people begin to ask why and what we can do about it. Public intellectuals like LanierTechnologicalUnemployment and journalists like Douglas Rushkoff stoke the fires of public discourse while providing their own non-mainstream economic analyses.

What can we do about this high level of unemployment? There are plenty of jobs for highly skilled individuals 2 while many low-skilled jobs have been destroyed, which indicates that we should provide low-cost ways for people to learn new skills.

Unfortunately, in the past, our skills-retraining programs have not worked. James Heckman has shown that soft skills are best learned at a very young age (before age 6) and are difficult at best to learn after high school. The jobs with the most openings all have the basic expectation that an employee can managing their anger, share responsibility, and communicate their needs.

Perhaps people should trial chemical behavior modification, e.g. some oxytocin before work/school.

Update: 2011-09-18
Less farcically, James Hamilton points toward natural resources as a way to pull people into jobs. However, that implies fighting and beating some NIMBYism.