Job search 'catch as catch can' for non-grads

Online job postings won't help this group of employees
Online job postings won't help this group of employees

Less-educated Americans desperate for work may not be finding a job online for one simple reason: The job they want isn't being posted there.

A new analysis of online job postings, released Wednesday by Georgetown University's Center on Education and the Workforce, finds that most jobs for people with a college education are now posted online. But the researchers found that that wasn't true for jobs requiring less education.

"The elite labor market—the college BA-level labor market—is becoming national and accessible," said Anthony Carnevale, the center's director. "And the labor market below that level—where most of the action is in terms of change—is still a blur."

The analysis is good news for people who have a college degree and are looking for work. But for people with less education, it suggests there may be yet another barrier to landing a job in the tight job market.

It's always been true that people with less education are more likely to be unemployed, and the current market is no exception. The unemployment rate for college graduates was 3.4 percent in March, compared with 6.3 percent for people with a high school diploma and no further education.

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Economists also say the job market for people without a college degree has been changing rapidly in recent years. Technology and automation have eliminated some well-paying jobs in factories and offices that didn't traditionally require advanced education, and many of those workers are finding that they need more advanced training to snag a new job with comparable pay.

"There are a lot of people whose skills just don't match the labor market anymore," Carnevale said.

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Online job gap

To quantify what jobs are being posted online, the researchers used an outside firm to cull through online job postings from 15,000 job-related websites, including job boards, employer websites and even some big social networking sites. Then, they took another swipe through the data to remove any duplicate postings of the same job.

Finally, they compared the online job postings to government data on job openings and the current labor market.

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Carnevale said they estimated that 80 to 90 percent of openings that require at least a bachelor's degree get posted online. By comparison, they estimated that just 30 to 40 percent of openings for candidates with some college education were being posted, and only 40 to 60 percent of openings for high school diploma holders were online.

Carnevale said companies looking for less-educated workers might not be posting those positions online because they have higher turnover and don't want to make the investment. Another theory is that many of those lower-skilled jobs are being offered by small businesses that don't have time or resources to post jobs online.

The findings also suggest that people with less education still need to be job hunting the old-fashioned way: talking to friends and former colleagues, keeping an ear out for local job openings and even literally knocking on doors.

"Below the B.A. level it is catch as catch can in the United States," Carnevale said.

Tara Sinclair, an economist with who was not involved in the Georgetown research, said her jobs website's analysis also showed that jobs posted online seemed to have a higher education requirement than the nation's current employment mix.

Sinclair, who also is an associate professor economics at George Washington University, said that could be a reflection of two things happening in the job market.

One is that jobs requiring less education aren't as likely to be posted online. The other is that the job market is changing and more jobs now require additional education.

"I think it's a blend of the two," she said.

Ioana Marinescu, an assistant professor of economics at the University of Chicago who has worked with the jobs site CareerBuilder, agreed that not all job openings appear to be posted online.

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But Marinescu, who also was not involved in the Georgetown study, said her analysis showed that it was certain industries—such as construction—that were less likely to post jobs online, rather than that some education levels were being excluded.

"I would agree that there is a certain lack of representation by industry, and that's also true in the CareerBuilder data," she said. "But I would not say, based on the data, (that there is) a lack of representation by education."

—By CNBC's Allison Linn