June 24, 2009

Skills job openings still hard to fill

Rising unemployment has not made it easier for U.S. employers to fill skilled laborers positions, in spite of rising applications, some observers said.

For example, project manager Chris McGrary at Cianbro Corp. said it took him 18 months to fill 80 positions for welders capable of producing flawless welds for an oil refinery project in Brewer, Maine, The New York Times reported Wednesday.

With stimulus spending likely to boost construction, civil engineers who can supervise projects are in high demand, as are critical care nurses, geotechnical engineers, respiratory therapists and electrical linemen.

With nearly 6 million U.S. jobs lost since December 2007, applicants are not scarce. But a freshly-earned college degree is not enough for some positions.

Not newly graduated civil engineers "¦ what's missing are enough licensed professionals who have worked at least five years under experienced engineers, said Larry Jacobson, executive director of the National Society of Professional Engineers.

The Conference Board, which analysis online job listings, said there were 1.09 million openings in architecture and engineering, physical sciences, computer and mathematical science and healthcare.

By tracking the last job worked by unemployed applicants, however, there were 582,700 unemployed people capable of filling those positions.