What Employers Want

What Employers Want: Job Prospects for Less-Educated Workers

Harry J. Holzer
Copyright Date: 1996
Published by: Russell Sage Foundation
Pages: 192
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    What Employers Want
    Book Description:

    A very important contribution to the field of labor economics, and in particular to the understanding of the labor market forworkers with relatively low skill levels. I think we have the sense that the market looks bad, but haven't been clear on how bad it is, or how it got that way.What Employers Wantprovides some of the answers and identifies the important questions. It is essential reading. -Jeffrey S. Zax, University of Colorado at Boulder

    The substantial deterioration in employment and earnings among the nation's less-educated workers, especially minorities and younger males in the nation's big cities, has been tentatively ascribed to a variety of causes: an increase in required job skills, the movement of companies from the cities to the suburbs, and a rising unwillingness to hire minority job seekers.What Employers Wantis the first book to replace conjecture about today's job market with first-hand information gleaned from employers about who gets hired. Drawn from asurvey of over 3,000 employers in four major metropolitan areas-Los Angeles, Boston, Atlanta, and Detroit-this volume provides a wealth of data on what jobs are available to the less-educated, in what industries, what skills they require, where they are located, what they pay, and how they are filled.

    The evidence points to a dramatic surge in suburban, white-collar jobs. The manufacturing industry-once a steady employer of blue-collar workers-has been eclipsed by the expanding retail trade and service industries, where the vast majority of jobs are in clerical, managerial, or sales positions. Since manufacturing establishments have been the most likely employers to move from the central cities to the suburbs, the shortage of jobs for low-skill urban workers is particularly acute. In the central cities, the problem is compounded and available jobs remain vacant because employers increasingly require greater cognitive and social skills as well as specific job-related experience. Holzer reveals the extent to which minorities are routinely excluded by employer recruitment and screening practices that rely heavily on testing, informal referrals, and stable work histories. The inaccessible location and discriminatory hiring patterns of suburban employers further limit the hiring of black males in particular, while earnings, especially for minority females, remain low.

    Proponents of welfare reform often assume that stricter work requirements and shorter eligibility periods will effectively channel welfare recipients toward steady employment and off federal subsidies.What Employers Wantdirectly challenges this premise and demonstrates that only concerted efforts to close the gap between urban employers and inner city residents can produce healthy levels of employment in the nation's cities. Professor Holzer outlines the measures that will benecessary-targeted education and training programs, improved transportation and job placement, heightened enforcement of antidiscrimination laws, and aggressive job creation strategies. Repairing urban labor markets will not be easy. This book shows why.

    A Volume in the Multi-City Study of Urban Inequality

    eISBN: 978-1-61044-295-4
    Subjects: Business, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-vii)
  4. Preface
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. 1 Introduction
    (pp. 1-19)

    This study of employers and jobs for less-educated workers in the United States begins with a review of recent labor market developments for minorities and less-educated workers. It continues with a discussion of various aspects of the employer survey administered as part of the Multi-City Study of Urban Inequality, reviewing in some detail the geographic, economic, and social characteristics of the four metropolitan areas in which the survey was administered, and also various sampling issues that bear on the representativeness of the employers and jobs that appear in the survey. The chapter concludes with a summary of the study’s principal...

  6. 2 What Jobs Are There and Where Are They?
    (pp. 20-44)

    In conducting our survey of employers to gather data on the numbers of new jobs that are available, we were particularly interested in the question of where these jobs are located—not only geographically but also in which industries, with what size employers, and whether they are in firms with collective-bargaining agreements. Therefore we begin by presenting some general descriptive material on these characteristics for the firms in our sample. Because the sample of employers is employee-weighted, these characteristics also reflect the characteristics of the jobs curently held by the overall workforce.¹

    But this raises the question of exactly how...

  7. 3 What Skills Do Employers Seek and How Do They Seek Them?
    (pp. 45-70)

    The data presented in the previous chapter on hiring and job vacancy rates in major metropolitan areas and on some of the characteristics of the jobs that employers have recently filled lead us to ask the following questions: How many of these jobs are available to the less-educated and less-skilled workers in our major metropolitan areas? Are there enough jobs with low hiring requirements for workers in these areas who possess few skills and poor employment records?

    These questions are at the heart of the debate among academics and policymakers regarding the degree to which we can expect the inner-city...

  8. 4 Who Gets Hired for These Jobs?
    (pp. 71-105)

    Some firms hire more minority or female workers than others do. There are many possible reasons why this is so. Obviously, the kinds of jobs that are available vary across firms, as do their skill requirements. The methods used by employers to meet their need for workers with particular skills may have an effect on who gets hired. And certain characteristics of firms, such as their geographic location within the metropolitan area and their proximity to black populations, as well as the racial attitudes of employers, may also have significant effects with respect to who gets hired.

    In this chapter,...

  9. 5 What Wages Are Less-Educated Workers Paid?
    (pp. 106-125)

    The earnings of workers without college degrees declined significantly in the United States over the past two decades. At the same time, the gaps in earnings between those with and without college degrees, between whites and minorities, and between age groups widened. Earnings inequalitywithineach of these groups rose as well. The earnings gap between men and women narrowed, though it remains substantial.¹

    According to much of the literature on these issues, these developments reflect a growing demand for skills in the workforce. However, this literature rarely documents theexactworkplace skills that are needed (especially by those without...

  10. 6 Summary of Findings and Policy Implications
    (pp. 126-135)

    There is no doubt that enormous changes have occurred on the demand side of the labor market in recent years. These changes have apparently reduced the earnings and employment opportunities available to minorities and less-educated workers. But, despite all of the discussion and indirect evidence presented on such changes to date, we have lacked direct evidence at the micro level on employers and their demand for less-skilled labor.

    In this volume we have presented such evidence on the characteristics of employers and jobs that are available to workers who do not have college degrees. The data are from a recently...

  11. Appendix A: An Analysis of Survey Response Rates
    (pp. 136-140)
  12. Appendix B: Additional Tables for Chapter 2
    (pp. 141-145)
  13. Appendix C: Additional Tables for Chapter 4
    (pp. 146-155)
  14. Appendix D: Additional Data for Chapter 5
    (pp. 156-160)
  15. References
    (pp. 161-171)
  16. Index
    (pp. 172-182)