A nice chart from the New York Times' Economix blog provides an interesting insight into why you (or someone you know) can't find work just now: business owners are concerned about poor sales. According to Economix' Catherine Rampell, the chart "breaks down what percent of small businesses cited each of these problems as their biggest challenge, going back to 1986."
You'll notice, of course, that less than a third of business owners cite poor sales as their chief concern. But when you compare levels of concern over the period of the recession (say, from 2007 to now) to the entire rest of the chart, it's clear that we're seeing all-time levels of concern over sales of late. And unless you've been paying particularly poor attention over the last couple of years, you'll likely also have noticed that unemployment is at record levels as well. Both, in fact, are between two and three times the levels seen in the decade prior to the recession. Coincidence?
Source: The New York Times Economix blog
A couple of other interesting stats: first, despite the fact that taxes are one of the hottest political potatoes around at the moment, the proportion of business owners citing them as the main factor affecting hiring hasn't varied that much in the almost-quarter century the chart covers.
There's also been a marked surge in concern over government requirements—likely a response to health care reform and new regulation prompted by the recession. While that's obviously a cause for concern—particularly for the government as it approaches the November elections—it also spells opportunity for one group of workers: consultants.
Also, check out the dark blue section of the chart, which tracks responses on "quality of labor" as a concern for hiring. While it's interesting to see how much the concern has narrowed since the onset of the recession, the real story is in comparing the mid to late 90s to the years prior to the current recession (when skilled labor shortages were widely predicted). Significantly more respondents in the 90s were concerned about quality of labor than those in the middle of the previous decade—despite the fact that the latter group were actually facing the prospect of losing quality from the workforce with the (now-delayed) impending retirement of the Boomer generation. So what gives? Was it the Internet boom catching companies cold or something else?
--Phil Stott, Vault.com
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