That’s the question raised by blogger Kevin Drum. He cites a recent article quoting Eric Hahn a manager at General Plastics, a manufacturer in Washington state who can’t find applicants that can meet the basic math requirements for a recent job posting:
OK, now look at the chart on the right. [You can click on it to see the full size version.] It shows results from the NAEP [National Assessment of Educational Progress] math test—a national assessment that’s generally considered highly reliable—for 17-year-olds. And basically, it shows nothing. If you take a look at the 25th and 50th percentiles, which is where most factory workers come from, scores have been pretty flat for the past two decades. If anything, they’re up slightly.
So how do we square this with Eric Hahn’s contention that General Plastics has had trouble over the past few years finding qualified workers?
His guess at the most likely answer: “Jobs at General Plastics require higher skills than in the past, but they’re refusing to pay any more than they used to. So they’re not getting suitable applicants.”