Anyone who has tried to hire a software engineer lately will tell you that the unemployment rate in that part of our economy is just as low as it always was. It would fit my experience to say that the unemployment rate in the tech industry is around 5% - which is half the national average of 10% and a third of the often cited number of over 15% which counts the people who are underemployed or who have quit looking for work.
So people with the right skills do not have any problem finding a job right now. And since averages are pretty straightforward, we know that for everyone who is experiencing 5% unemployment, there must be another person experiencing 25% unemployment, to make the average 15%.
When comparing the US to the Euro-zone, economists often cite worker mobility as the reason the US consistently outperforms. The mobility the economists are talking about here is physical. An American will move from Detroit to Dallas for a job before a European will move from Greece to Germany. In China people are moving to the cities before they even have jobs - but that is another story.
In a knowledge economy, the willingness or ability to relocate does not solve the problem. Our workers need to repack their brains instead of UHauls in order to move from the 25% group to the 5% group. In fact, the way the work follows the smart people around now, there is no need for the UHaul at all. Just pack your brain with the right knowledge and the work will come to you.
We saw "Waiting For Superman" last night. I will write more about that later. The movie paints a big target on the teachers unions -- a fight I am very interested in following. The teachers unions, and all of our unions, are in a perfect position to play a critical role in the packing of American brains to compete on a world stage. In the area of education, the teachers unions have two layers because they have to decide if they want the teachers to get smarter, so the teachers can make all of the students smarter. This is unbelievable leverage and one of the reasons so many people in the technology industry (from Bill Gates to George Lucas) are trying to figure out how to fix our education system.
If you are thinking about seeing the movie -- do. My only complaint is that it is about half an hour too long. If you want to think more about this subject, check out my review of Work Hard, Be Nice.