EMPLOYER SKILL REQUIREMENTS

The persistent weakness of the U.S. labor market following the Great Recession puzzled researchers and policymakers. While a number of explanations have been explored, economists have hypothesized that the sluggish recovery was caused by a decrease in “recruitment intensity”—the actions employers take to fill job vacancies, such as changes in advertising expenditures, screening methods, hiring standards, and compensation. Yet to date, the application of this theory has been limited.

Using a proprietary dataset of the near-universe (90 million) of online job vacancy postings, my research examines one channel along which recruitment intensity may have shifted during the Great Recession: employer skill requirements. I show that employer skill requirements for education and experience increased sharply during the Great Recession, rising more in states and occupations that experienced greater increases in the supply of available workers as measured by the unemployment rate (Modestino, Shoag, and Balance 2019). Moreover, employer requirements for education and experience—as well as other skills—then decreased between 2010 and 2014, essentially reversing much of the upskilling that was related to the business cycle (Modestino, Shoag, and Balance 2016).

This research provides some of the first empirical evidence of a shift in recruitment intensity whereby employer skill requirements are partly driven in response to labor market conditions. This upskilling also has important implications for how economists measure labor market mismatch. My work in progress shows that cyclical upskilling largely occurred within low- and middle-skill occupations, but upskilling within high-skill occupations was more persistent and largely related to increasing demand for software skills—resulting in a high level of mismatch in this sector even after the Great Recession (Burke, Modestino, Sederberg, Sadighi, and Taska 2019).

PEER REVIEWED JOURNALS

Published, In-Press, or Accepted

Modestino, A., Shoag, D., and Ballance, J. 2019.  “Upskilling: Do Employers Demand Greater Skill When Workers Are Plentiful?” In press, Review of Economics and Statistics.
[Publication]
[Working Paper Version]
Media Coverage: Wall Street Journal (2019) (2015) (2014), Vox (2019), Boston Globe (2018), Washington Post (2016), NPR (2015), Bloomberg (2015)

Modestino, A., Kenney, K., Ladge, J., & Sugiyama, K. 2019. "Careers in Construction: An Examination of the Career Narratives of Young Professionals and Their Emerging Career Self-Concepts." Journal of Vocational Behavior, pp. 1-52.
[Pre-Print Version]

Modestino, A., Shoag, D., and Ballance, J. 2016. “Downskilling: Changes in Employer Skill Requirements Over the Business Cycle.” Labour Economics, (41):  333-347.
[Publication]
[Working Paper Version]
Media Coverage: Wall Street Journal (2018), Boston Globe (2017) (2015)

Currently Under Review

Sugiyama, K., Ladge. J., Modestino A. 2019. “Navigating Predictable Paths and Experimental Twists: Developing Career Identity Across Multiple Levels, Processes, and Outcomes.” Submitted, Journal of Management Studies.
[Working Paper Version]

Burke M., Modestino, A., Taska B., Sederberg R, and Sadighi, S.  2019. “No Longer Qualified? Changes in the Supply and Demand for Skills within Occupations.”
[Working Paper Version]

Working Papers in Preparation for Submission

Modestino, A., Shoag, D., and Moss, P. 2017. “Upskilling During the Great Recession: Why Do Employers Demand Greater Skill When Workers Are Plentiful?”
[Working Paper Version]

OTHER PUBLICATIONS

Modestino, A. and Shoag, D. 2018. “When the Economy Is Good, Employers Demand Fewer Credentials.” Harvard Business Review, August.
[Publication]

Modestino, A. 2016. “The Importance of Middle-Skill Jobs.”  Issues in Science and Technology.  National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, Fall, pp. 41-6.
[Publication]

Modestino, A.  2011. “Mismatch in the Labor Market: The Supply and Demand for Middle-Skill Workers in New England.” The New England Journal of Higher Education. February.
[Publication]

Modestino, A.  2009. “The Future of the Skilled Labor Force.” The New England Journal of Higher Education, vol. XXIII, No. 3, pp.15-18.
[Publication]

PUBLIC POLICY REPORTS AND BRIEFS

Modestino, A. and Sederberg, R. 2019. “Untapped: Redefining Hiring in the New Economy.” Office of Workforce Development, City of Boston.
[Publication
]

Modestino, A., McHugh, W., Chan, A., Irvine, C., Jones, N., Mihevc, J., Morris, T. 2018. “Findings of the 2017 CAE Member Institution Cybersecurity Survey.”  National Security Agency.
[Publication]

Modestino, A. 2015.  “Middle Skill Workers and Today’s Labor Market.” The National Academies, Board on Behavioral, Cognitive, and Sensory Sciences, Commissioned paper for the “Symposium on the Supply Chain for Middle-Skill Jobs:  Education, Training, and Certification,” September.
[Publication]

Modestino, A.  and Dennett, J. 2011. “The Middle-Skills Gap: Ensuring an Adequate Supply of Skilled Labor in Northern and Southern New England.”  Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, New England Public Policy Center, Policy Brief No. 11-1.
[Publication]

Modestino, A.  2010. “Mismatch in the Labor Market: Measuring the Supply of and Demand for Skilled Labor in New England.”  Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, New England Public Policy Center, Research Report No. 10-2.
[Publication]

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