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Unemployment, Inc.: Six reasons why America can't create jobs

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As a result, consumer activity in Germany didn't plunge as sharply.

2 The résumé gap

To say that a lack of job skills is part of the employment problem sounds like blaming workers for their own predicament, at a time when many jobless Americans have both skills and a willingness to retrain.

But some economists argue that this is an important part of the jobs conundrum. And the issue really isn't about blame, but about helping workers, schools, and businesses connect better. If they do, more new jobs and even new industries will be created in the US, rather than overseas or not at all.

Even in the current weak economy, employers say a good number of jobs are going unfilled because companies aren't finding skilled workers.

To give just one example, Mark Hanawalt in Waverly, Iowa, says he's looking for people with technical skills, such as engineering and running computer-controlled tools, for the manufacturing firm he co-owns, United Equipment Accessories. He describes people with those abilities as "highly competitive" and not easy to draw to small-town Iowa. The skills (and in this case geography) gap could become an even bigger problem if the economy shows gradual improvement and more firms want to hire.

The issue goes beyond software engineers and manufacturing to a range of fields, including nutritionists and welders. In some cases, it is a matter of people lacking the know-how. In others, it is simply that they don't know the jobs exist. "There's a clear lack of information getting down to students" as well as the middle-aged jobless about what skills are in most demand, says Dr. Lund.

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