Plenty of jobs, lazy Americans just don't want them

Some people look at our 8.1 percent unemployment rate and say, there aren't enough jobs out there. But others say there are plenty, Americans just aren't willing to do them. One of those people is John Stossel, host of "Stossel" on the Fox Business Network.

Stossel did a Fox News special called "Out of Work," where he argues that there are plenty of jobs in the United States, Americans aren't willing to take them. He points the blame on a more-than-generous government safety net.

"We've taught people that in some cases it's easier to be dependent, and you're a sucker if you pound the pavement and work at one of those tough minimum wage jobs," he told host Jeremy Hobson.

Listen to the interview above to hear from Stossel about why he thinks both the "help wanted index" and the unemployment numbers are higher than ever now.

About the author

Jeremy Hobson is host of Marketplace Morning Report, where he looks at business news from a global perspective to prepare listeners for the day ahead.
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I for one cannot wait for Tess to come back, the quality of the programing put on by her substitute hosts has been just abysmal. The work ethic theme of last week’s show was just plain snarky and full of biased reporting.

John Stossel’s editorial was pure right wing propaganda complete with unproven assertions that conservatives like to take as God’s word. I would dearly like to hear Mr. Stossel’s opinion on public assistance for the unemployed if some day he finds himself unemployed for an extended period of time for no fault of his own. Somehow I don’t think he would be so condescending to those who gratefully take public assistance while they try to find suitable work.

Typical Stossel I guess, and it doesn't help allay my feeling that public media is slipping a bit in quality, following a general decline in journalism. Nowadays there seems to be more thinly-veiled, often poorly substantiated editorializing.

As for the topic, there may be 'some' jobs that some will avoid doing for the offered compensation (which could represent a backtrack on the resumé). A wage that 'might' meet the needs of a migrant worker, but not most Americans. I suspect many of those complaining that America has lost it's work ethic are looking for cheap loyalty at a time when food, fuel, education, and health care are more expensive. But there are still plenty of folks taking what they can get.

John Stossell...can't agree with you more.

John Stossell? Fox Business News?

As my dear grandmother would say, "Well, bless his heart."

You can do better. Without much effort, you can do much, much better. Shame on you, Marketplace producers.

What happened? This whole series on work ethic was stunning in its shoddiness and absence of intelligent underpinnings. Shame on you NPR.

I just have one question: Is Stossel's child paying for medical school solely with income earned from a restaurant job?

Yes, there are people who are lazy. Yes, there are people who work far too hard for far too little money. Tiring, physical work, or boring, soul-sucking work. Yes, there are a lot of people who are unemployed. A frightful number, in fact. Yes, there are open jobs that go unfilled. But you can't just paste these numbers together and say, "Ergo, lazy people are leaving jobs unfilled."

We have to acknowledge and begin to discuss a significant -- nay, HUGE -- factor in the market: Employers have been somehow conditioned to not even CONSIDER applicants whose skills are greater than or apart from those of the job for which they are applying.

This applies to employers of all stripes, at all levels of the economy. But it very much DOES apply at the minimum-wage level. No matter what those employers from the Stossel interview said, from the impromptu on-the-street research he sites, much of it is baloney. Employers will NOT take just anyone and train them in. That's nonsense. And they especially will not hire on someone whose experience outstrips the position by any significant margin.

Employers are as much if not more self-interested than individuals. And, no employer is going to select an applicant from a pool (nowadays an inevitably wide and deep pool) who isn't physically and intellectually able do the work - AND who the employer thinks will stay at the job and needs the job enough to not skip if/when a better offer comes along. What sensible, self-interested employer would make an investment in a hire knowing that they risk throwing their new-hire investment of time, training, and money right out the window?

Moreover, in the current environment, employers' first choices seem to be those applicants who have done THAT EXACT JOB BEFORE, probably with the same or similar title, in a similar work environment, at a similar level. No chances are being taken by the hirers, not even the sort of chances that might pay off big-time, such as on an undiscovered gem of a candidate, the very kind of person they might have hired with great enthusisam just 10 years ago.

So, jobs at the "white-collar" level sit unfilled because employers can't find someone with the EXACT profile they have in mind (conservative, inflexible, and unimaginative profiles, I would say).

The "blue-collar" level is another matter entirely.

My instincts and what I've heard in anecdotal reports tell me that the phenomenon of the hyper-selective employer plays out differently here. Say you're hiring a person for front-end retail, or to wait tables, or work a register, all those minimum-wage positions that Stossel implies go begging because we're all so lazy. No employer is going to take a chance on hiring someone who has no immediate experience in the trade or craft, and they especially won't take a chance on bringing in someone whose recent work history is at some other, "higher" level of employment. They won't. No matter what they say to interviewers. A restaurant is going to hire a white, middle-aged, male, laid-off business executive who hasn't hoisted a tray or punched a register since his first summer out of high school? Ain't gonna happen. Not with all the eager, able, people of all colors and stripes out there with current employment histories that exactly match the job description, and whose hiring and tenure would be "simpler" and a better return on investment-- or so it must seem to the employers.

And why should they? It's a buyer's market, and employers have the right to select or hold out for whatever they have in mind, no matter how many potentially great staffers they might overlook in the process.

Many businesses and organizations are just sitting like so many deer in the headlights, waiting for the next shoe to drop in the econo-political landscape (namely, the election). In such a calcified economy, nothing is going to suddenly change. No incentive package is going to bribe employers into hiring people who are OVERqualified, or DIFFERENTLY qualified. Employers aren't going to change their attitudes and strategies on a dime, on their own.

So, we DO need to start talking about THIS gap, and less about "lazy" people and the much-touted "skills gap." The MEDIA needs to start talking about it, so people hear about it. How about Marketplace?

I agree, for I've been there. And it can get worse if you are hired. If you're a professional coming from a good income, that lower level job not only kills unemployment insurance but effectively removes you from the active job search for something that will cover the mortgage. As a corporate accountant I could take time off from work when I needed it. As a junior barista at a coffee shop my hours were dictated by management and locked, often days in advance. To take a job interview I'd have to trade hours with other employees, which violated company policy. So after a couple of months they had to let me go.

I am disappointed that you let the assertions and explanations of both Stossel and Hill (Protestant work ethic) go unchallenged. They discussed causes and effects whose relationships, to put it mildly, are contested! Scholars, historians among them, still debate the validity of Weber's thesis on the role of the Protestant Reformation, the development of capitalism, and the so-called Protestant work ethic. When I listened to your piece, I was reminded of Romney's statement about those wonderful Anglo-Saxon values. The piece was neither balanced nor fair.

Primal scream. Faith-based economics strikes again. Americans who do not remember their own history are doomed to have the 1% repeat it for them. We TRIED charity-based solutions (and blaming the victim) in the LAST Great Depression and learned that they were no match for a global economic meltdown. The reason we HAVE social safety nets in the developed world is BECAUSE we discovered as a society that we NEEDED them to balance out the crises that are part and parcel of a market economy (see for instance the documentary 'Capitalism Is the Crisis'). Moreover, structural unemployment is baked into our current globalized economic model. Winner-take-all resource allocation and financialization/privatization are suctioning the wealth of nations out of the real economy and into the hands of a privileged few - an estimated $21T is now being hoarded in offshore accounts. Economies work via transactions. As fewer and fewer transactions occur, due to lack of means, things naturally fall apart and mere charity will not fix that. It is the SYSTEM that is fatally flawed, not those who find themselves trapped within it. Fixing the SYSTEM so that it works for everybody is therefore the task before us. That is a little more difficult than finger wagging and it would directly and adversely impact Mr. Stossel's corporate overlords, so I guess it's no wonder the mainstream media continues to purvey his/their neoliberal supply-side pablum.

In closing let me just fight fire WITH fire, or anecdotal evidence with anecdotal evidence. Not an hour later on NPR's Weekend Edition Sunday, a very different tale was told, this time by a sure 'nuff 'job creator'...



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