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Ghost Jobs: An Economic Illusion That Harms the Unemployed

Are you trying to better yourself by finding a new job?  We keep hearing about record-low unemployment. This would make one think that there are job openings all over the place.  Have you been diligently looking through online job postings and filling out applications, only to hear nothing?  You might be chasing after ghost jobs.

“Ghost job” refers to online job postings that are seemingly never filled.  

Why on earth would companies do this?  Why let people chase jobs that don’t exist?

A closer look at ghost jobs

Let’s look at why so many ghost jobs are out there, why mainstream media is reporting on the economy in the way it is, and what steps individual job-seekers can take.

Clarify Capital conducted a survey of 1045 managers involved in hiring between August 31 and September 1, 2022.  They asked managers why they left job postings online even though they were not actively trying to fill those positions.  The answers?

  • 50% reported that the company is always open to new people.
  • 43% wanted to keep employees motivated
  • 43% to give the impression that company is growing
  • 39% the job was filled
  • 37% to keep an active pool of active applicants in case of turnover
  • 35% in case an irresistible candidate applies
  • 34% to placate overworked employees
  • 27% forgot to delete the job
  • 33% no reason in particular

Disorganization within large companies can lead to incorrect job postings as well, according to a March 20, 2023, article in the Wall Street Journal.  Many large companies have been going through rounds of layoffs and restructuring, and departments may post job openings redundantly or for jobs that haven’t been approved at other levels within the company.

This sounds like a fairly toxic situation between employers, employees, and potential employees.  If our unemployment rate is so low, we shouldn’t have so many people in employment limbo. 

What’s actually going on here?

As explained by Heresy Financial, there are two sets of data used to calculate employment rates, the establishment survey and the household survey.  

According to the establishment survey, the current unemployment rate is 3.4%, the lowest in history since 1969.  This is calculated by asking companies how many employees they have.  The big gap in establishment survey data is that it does not account for people working multiple jobs.  If one person is working days at McDonald’s and nights at an Amazon warehouse, two separate jobs are considered filled, even though one person is filling both.

Household surveys are conducted by asking individuals where they work.  This is more accurate in that it accounts for people working multiple jobs, which is common at the lower end of the socioeconomic spectrum.  When you consider how many people work multiple jobs, it reveals a more accurate picture of how many people are not actually working at all.

Once seen as a fool-proof field, tech companies have been making large rounds of layoffs. Looking at skilled vs. unskilled jobs in the Heresy Financial video, we see that the jobs most in demand are the ones that do not require a college degree.  Those with a college degree, expecting a more highly skilled job, are finding fewer job opportunities.

Nobody wants to admit they’ve ruined the economy.

I’ve got a bunch of teenagers at home.  They’re still being told that college is the way forward in life, but this does not seem as true as it was 30 years ago.  Why the deception?  Why would mainstream media push the narrative that the economy is booming and that if you just go to college, you’ll find a good job?

First of all, no politicians want to admit they’ve ruined the economy.  Much as I’d like to blame Biden for everything, fudging jobs data to make it look like a higher percentage of the population is employed has been going on for a while.  This isn’t partisan. It’s just politicians being politicians.

More significantly, the U.S. has held status as the world’s reserve currency for almost eighty years now.  This comes with all kinds of advantages, such as ease in foreign transactions and the ability to impose punishing sanctions.  

However, this reserve currency status has been based on a level of trust with the rest of the world. Everyone agrees to accept our money largely because, particularly after World War II, we had such a stable, transparent economy compared to almost everyone else.  Politicians know that a lot of perks come with being the biggest and wealthiest, and they want to continue to present America to the world in that way.

There there’s the AI effect.

Perhaps most significantly, the emerging use of AI has brought a great deal of chaos and uncertainty to the job market.  It’s highly likely that politicians and large employers alike would prefer to keep quiet about how much disruption will occur due to this new technology.

Many companies now use AI to process job applications. (We told you it was going to be everywhere.)  Large companies routinely use AI to filter applicants, even though algorithms are known to filter out qualified employees.  Despite known issues, AI is so much cheaper this problem will not go away any time soon.

Worse, the advent of AI has made companies unwilling to invest in new employees if they think they will be able to buy software soon that will be able to perform the same function.

This is not widely discussed due to fears of social disruption.  You may not remember learning about the Luddites in history, but I can guarantee you the people in charge do.

The Luddites were a group led by Ned Ludd, a displaced artisanal weaver, back in the nineteenth century at the beginning of industrial cloth production.  Ned Ludd led other displaced workers on a rampage of property destruction throughout England before being brutally suppressed. (source)

“Luddite” now is a term used to throw at anyone deemed anti-technology, but the Luddites weren’t anti-technology.  They were angry at the total change in lifestyle they knew they faced at the dawn of the Industrial Revolution, and they tried to do something about it.

Needless to say, it didn’t work. I don’t think smashing computers will solve our problems.

What can we do about ghost jobs?

But what can we do?  Are there still real jobs out there?  How can we avoid wasting our time with ghost job postings?

  • Look at how long a potential job has been open.  If it’s been more than a month, be suspicious.  Also, look for how detailed the job responsibilities are.  The more specific the company’s needs are, the more likely it’s a legitimate job. (source) 
  • Apply for jobs on the company’s website, rather than through a site like LinkedIn or Indeed. (source)
  • If no company contact information is listed, that’s a bad sign.  Same goes for poor grammar and spelling.  Also, if you spot a company that looks interesting, do an internet search.  If you can’t find much information about the company, avoid it.  Don’t ever give out money or a social security number before an actual hire.  And if the potential job sounds too good to be true, it probably is. (source)
  • To avoid getting filtered out by AI algorithms, bear in mind that very tiny things will likely put you out of the hiring pool.  Do not go over word limits; be meticulous in your grammar and spelling.  While human eyes may see through minor mistakes in the case of an outstanding applicant, an algorithm won’t.

And it’s okay to send out emails checking on the status of a job within a month of sending in an application.  If you’re afraid you’ve missed a call or deleted an email from a potential employer, reach out.  At least the potential employer will know that you really want the job. 

Personally, I have heard complaints from both ends.  I know young people can’t find jobs. I can also think of three friends off the top of my head, actively trying to hire, that cannot fill positions.  Two of those jobs are very physically demanding, but they’re still jobs.

The job market is a mess, and nothing is as it seems.

There is a huge amount of turmoil in the labor market right now.  Deception abounds as to what career path is most promising.  We have a serious mismatch between what kinds of jobs we think are available and what jobs really are.  Ghost job postings are not helping anything. Neither will nagging or blaming other individuals in your life.

Encourage the job-seekers in your life to keep trying.  Maybe watch some videos together about ways to improve their resumes.  Or have conversations about broadening what kind of work you’re willing to consider or where you’d be willing to live.  Job markets can vary dramatically from one part of the country to another.

Hang in there!

Don’t give up.  Ghost jobs are making life difficult right now, but if you feel like you’ve fallen for a trick, don’t take it personally.  If you have been frustrated by this situation, realize you are not alone.  Ghost jobs are a real phenomenon. If the Wall Street Journal is criticizing employers, you know something’s up.  

And if you know someone who is searching for a job, consider this information before you tell them that they simply aren’t trying hard enough.

Hopefully, you’ve gotten some food for thought about how to filter your own searches a little bit so that you can avoid wasting your time with ghost jobs in the future.  

Have you had any experience with ghost jobs as either a job seeker or someone whose company posts such listings? What is it all about in your situation? Did you know about this phenomenon? How do you feel about the smoke and mirrors afflicting job listings? Let’s talk about it in the comments.

About Marie Hawthorne

A lover of novels and cultivator of superb apple pie recipes, Marie spends her free time writing about the world around her.

The post Ghost Jobs: An Economic Illusion That Harms the Unemployed appeared first on The Organic Prepper.

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