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Which Educated Workers Are Unemployed?

Posted by: Michael Mandel on June 15

I’ve been watching the unemployment rate for college-educated workers rise from 2.3% a year ago, to 4.8% in May. But even that figure, I think, understates the pain in much of the ‘well-educated’ labor market.

So I separated workers with a bachelor’s degree or better into two categories. One category includes those who work in the healthcare, education, and government. The other category is everyone else with a college degree.

To give you a sense of scale, roughly 40% of college-educated workers are employed in healthcare, education, and government (By contrast, only 8% of college-educated workers are employed in manufacturing. Perhaps this helps explain why innovation has been so slow).

For workers with a college degree in the HealthEdGov sector, the unemployment rate in March/April 2009 was only 2.1%. But elsewhere in the economy, the unemployment rate for college-educated workers was a sturdy 5.5%.

(These numbers come from unpublished data from the Current Population Survey. They are for workers 25 years old and over, they are not seasonally adjusted, and they should be regarded as very unofficial).

Here’s a table which shows how the unemployment rate of the college- educated has changed over the past 2 years (top two lines).

2007 2008 2009
March-April unemployment rate*
not seasonally adjusted 
College grads in HealthEdGov 1.1% 1.2% 2.1%
College grads in all other industries 2.2% 2.5% 5.5%
All other workers 4.5% 5.2% 9.5%
*25 and over only
Data: Current Population Survey, calculations by Mandel

What I take away from this: If you are an educated worker in the HealthEdGov sector, you’ve only felt moderate tremors from the downturn. Outside of that sector, times are much tougher for the college-educated.

Now let’s focus down and look at the college-educated unemployment rate in individual industries, including publishing (shhhh!).

The data below is calculated from the CPS using four month averages ending in April of each year. As before, this is unofficial data.

I've picked out some interesting industries, with high and low unemployment rates for educated workers.


Let's start from the top, which are the industries which had high college-educated unemployment rates in the first four months of 2009. For example, unemployment for college-educated workers in the computer and electronics manufacturing industry jumped from 2.6% in 2007 to 9.0% in 2009 (that's the red line, third from the top on the right).

Another tough industry for the college-educated, not suprisingly, is publishing. The unemployment rate in publishing for college grads (old and new) is up to 7.2% in 2009, from 2.4% in 2007 (the blue line, fourth from the top)

What *is* surprising to me is that the 7.2% unemployment rate in publishing for college grads is higher than the 6.1% unemployment rate in finance for college grads. It's also higher than the 5% rate in real estate.

By the way, I find it totally aggravating that publishing has a higher unemployment rate for college-educated workers than the two industries that helped cause the meltdown, finance and real estate.

At the other end of the spectrum, there's a bunch of industries which still have college-educated unemployment rates of 3% or less. These include the industries in the HealthEdGov sector, plus insurance (which may be driven by health insurance companies). It's a lot more secure in these industries.

Now, I want to emphasize one more time. These are unpublished numbers for a reason--they do not meet the BLS standard of reliability because the sample sizes are too small. I've dealt with some of that problem by merging multiple months, but it's still possible that these results reflect statistical noise rather than honest trends.

However, I thought they were pretty interesting.

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Reader Comments


June 16, 2009 09:28 PM

The (supposedly causal?) link between college education to innovation is highly overrated.

For many professional jobs, a college degree is merely a credential-checklist requirement, essentially being what the high school degree was about 50 years ago. It's a pricing-in effect of broader availability of academic credentials. In some subsectors of tech, the barrier for "prime" jobs is pretty much set at the PhD.

At the end of the day, aggregate labor market slack spills over into all prevalent job categories. If an ever larger segment of the labor market requires higher credentials, unemployment and underemployment will "follow" the credential shift.

I know a large number of PhD holders who are doing routine software development and maintenance tasks.

And what does it say that Google once sought a "massage operations coordinator" (managing massage vendors, sign up sheets, and appointment reminders) with "Bachelor preferred" (though not required) - a Bachelor in *any* field, not necessarily "Massage Operations".


June 17, 2009 12:18 AM


The fact that education is over-rated and under-utilized does not negate the fact that in order to get into a place where one has the knowledge and authority to innovate, a college degree is a near-necessary condition. Unless you built your own business, of course, but even there it helps a lot.


June 17, 2009 01:10 AM

Hi sir i m MarkJones and i complete my bachelor degree's in Banking and i steel to a temporary job in UK please tell me what should be do in future ...
temporary jobs London and the UK


June 17, 2009 04:21 AM

Maybe publishing'd be doing better if they weren't almost wholly economically illiterate and had deployed a micropayments system in the '90s. This is all useless hand-wringing: there will be plenty of paid writing online once micropayments are deployed and bachelor's degree recipients are hardly worth talking about as the real pain is in the 9.5% unemployment for non-college grads. Job security in HealthEdGov is driven by horribly bloated companies that are shielded from market forces by heavy govt involvement and funding, the modern equivalent of digging ditches and filling them back up again to create "jobs." I actually think this belt-tightening is a welcome antidote to the somewhat irrational boom we just went through and the giant boom that's coming next. :) Cm's right: the bachelors is an almost worthless filter and education has very little connection to innovation.


June 17, 2009 07:32 AM

I'm with you Ajay. There is nothing fundamentally wrong with the world that wouldn't be fixed quickly by wiping out the ridiculous amounts of money created by financial innovation. Maybe when those insurance types (many of whom are probably writing CDS contracts) start getting unemployed we'll know the recovery is starting.

Brandon W

June 17, 2009 09:07 AM

I believe the reason publishing is having such a high unemployment rate as compared to some other industries is because of the Internet. The Internet is killing newspapers and magazines. Publishing is dealing with more than just the current recession.


June 17, 2009 11:11 AM

How much of the employment in all the healthcare industry has been driven by the wealth transfer from every where to that industry?

The report of CEA shows that part of the stagnation in salaries has been the result of the excessive growth in the cost of health care.
- -
Once the forces of cost cutting and real competition start playing their role, how much of the employment in the industry will remain?

It is almost a confirmed fact the the growth in cost is partially explained by M.D´s ordering unnecessary procedures,tests,hospital visits. Those tests require a large number of people not only to managed the procedure but to handle the absurd complexity of the system.

A good number of good papers have shown that the growth is also explained by the existence a a good insurance medical plans that isolated people from the true cost of the system.

If this is also changing and people will be having to pay more of the real cost and be more careful with their medical expenses, what will the impact on the level of employment.

Aging population does not mean automatically increased health care expenses. Again a good number of good papers show that is not the case.

Joe Cushing

June 18, 2009 11:56 AM

Many finance people are busy monitoring the economic situation.


June 19, 2009 12:00 AM

CompEng: My wording was not very good. The exposure and penetration of any "technical" subject matter needed for innovation in a low-hanging-fruits-picked situation virtually requires a college *education* (not just the degree!), as in these days only higher ed institutions can provide that.

But in that very situation, something being a necessary condition does not say very much. (BTW, note you used the phrase "get in", which was precisely my point.)

That's the complex of things I meant by "causal link".

OTOH, as dotcom 1.0 and 2.0 have demonstrated beyond reasonable doubt, there has been ample potential for innovation in the (commercially as well as academically!!) uncharted territories of networked services and network enabled products, even for those or under reliance on those without formal degree paperwork, at all or in the applicable specialty. Nontrivial software has been produced by self-taught hackers - this is where the ubiquity of commodity PCs and scripting languages is enormously empowering. (But then that's tantamount to saying the low hanging fruits were not - yet - picked.) Of course, the old adage "90% of everything is crud" also applies, but so does it to degree holders!

Also note on that topic, the technical/utilitarian merit of innovation is not necessarily indicated by commercial success.

Kenton Hoover

June 19, 2009 12:07 AM

"To give you a sense of scale, roughly 40% of college-educated workers are employed in healthcare, education, and government (By contrast, only 8% of college-educated workers are employed in manufacturing. Perhaps this helps explain why innovation has been so slow)."

exactly how much innovation have we seen in education over the last fifty years?


June 19, 2009 01:49 AM

Kenton Hoover: Phonics? New math?

I didn't go to school in the US, so I won't endorse anything as I don't know those beyond the buzzwords. But I think they would be innovations, no?


June 19, 2009 08:30 AM

I find myself in general agreement with what you've said. Although it is possible to be self-taught to the level of the average college degree, and a Bachelor's as Ajay put it, is a "weak filter", a college education is still a wise choice for most aspirants.
You hear the stories of people dropping out of college (often grad school) to go be a millionaire, and my uncle (by marriage) is one of those. But it's not a high percentage play for most of us.

I wouldn't put "new math" in the category of positive innovations, btw. The general transition away from rote learning is a positive development, but lacks the suddenness that I would grant to "innovations". Actually, I've decided I thoroughly despise the word innovation.


June 19, 2009 11:21 AM

CompEng: Something doesn't have to be of net positive social value to qualify as an innovation. It would seem to me most claims of "no innovation" are made in a sense of "inability/unwillingness to do things differently" (not "better"!).

As for college degrees, let me repeat my main point, this is only one (though much discussed) part of the general phenomenon of credentialism and credential inflation. As the adage goes, only 10% of (any) population can be in the top 10%. When everybody can acquire higher credentials (regardless of the level of scholastic achievement they represent), this will simply lead to a rise in credential requirements, *unless* there is a matching growth in jobs genuinely *requiring* them (by which one would have to inflation-adjust to be fair).

Now we certainly had large growth of jobs requiring professional training beyond K-12, but I'm under the impression that of late (let's say the last decade at least) that "real" growth has no longer matched the rise in credentialism. When you have nontrivial PhD populations spending a substantial portion of time with routine maintenance and *quite* incremental product improvement, this does have to do with the raised bar of tech discussion of previous posts, but also points to an excessive supply of advanced degrees as well as employers (nominally) overstaffing their positions.

Raising the barrier to entry on academic degrees alone is perhaps not the worst. There is increasing specialization and fragmentation of the "skills market", actual but largely frivolous. It goes as far as people with strong experience in a general field will not be considered for interviews across specialties within the field, even when the specialties nomenclature is questionable and a large part of the experience is actually portable, i.e. generally applicable.

Examples that I am familiar with are corporate IT/databases, where you have the specialties of IT for various corporate departments (Finance, HR, Sales, Manufacturing, supply chain, etc.) with subspecialties corresponding to specific areas within each. Likewise software development - areas and subject matters have genuine differences, but I'd say at least 2/3 is general programming everywhere. You do need "deep" specialists, but everywhere there are at least 50% generalist tasks.

My general opinion is that those are, deliberately or unwittingly, used as devices to discriminate and screen applicants, and/or to heighten the image of the respective subspecialties - "not everybody can do our stuff".


June 19, 2009 04:29 PM


I agree with pretty much everything you said. The only reason I brought up the point is to say that, as an individual, you can't really escape the trap.

A better job placement industry and a true evolution of education toward very focused job training without the stigma of a community college program are two of the big opportunities I see going forward. A classic education makes sense for leaders, but more focused and compressed education would offer much better bang for the buck for most. Of course, with most education being free and the credential aspect of education being so valuable compared to the training aspect, competition hasn't been able to do much for the industry.

Joe Cushing

June 19, 2009 07:02 PM

Kenton Hoover,

We have seen almost the same amount of inovation in education in 50 years as the Soviets had in cars in 50 years. That's because they are the same system.

Joe Cushing

June 19, 2009 07:03 PM

Kenton Hoover,

We have seen almost the same amount of inovation in education in 50 years as the Soviets had in cars in 50 years. That's because they are the same system. It has less to do with how smart the people are and everything to do with competition.


June 20, 2009 12:14 AM

CompEng: There is certainly the possibility that I'm pontificating too much.

OTOH, when I'm responding to somebody, that doesn't (necessarily) mean I'm intending to take a diametrically opposed position.


June 20, 2009 12:36 AM

CompEng: I'm not sure there will/can ever be a substantially better "job placement industry". One large part of the problem in (tech) positions is that suitability of candidates is fundamentally difficult to judge (at least by those who happen to do the hiring, and who are overall not deep subject matter experts). This is because there is substantial creative or very specialized job content (i.e. the problem domain is usually not fully figured out or defies formalization), many performance aspects are practically unobservable or unattributable (in large team efforts where individual efforts combine nonlinearly into a whole), and generally nobody can even define what "100%" or "baseline" performance is, especially in R&D efforts.

In Germany it is very common that new hires are subjected to a probation period (usually 3 months) within or more likely at the end of which they can be fired without much trouble in case problems emerge that are difficult to detect in the interview process. That does not appear to be (generally?) the case in the US. OTOH US employment is usually "at will" at least in name, but I'm hearing this is not nearly enforced to the extent one would expect. Perhaps because of larger (?) legal risks, which presumably would also apply in the probation scenario.


June 20, 2009 09:11 AM

When my friends joined Intel straight out of their bachelors' in 2000, they said there was a probation period for 6 months to a year. With the radical changes in market fragmentation and the death of big players that are coming, there will be radical changes in talent evaluation too. Again, look to open source: a project will be split up into a bunch of tasks and people can choose to do as many of them as they choose. Several can choose to code a png library independently and the best efforts can be combined for the working product. This same model can be applied for investment research or writing art history; reputation systems will weed out underperformers over time but it'll be based on actual, specific past performance. Nobody will have a "job," just various projects that you take part in. You can specialize in the lexer for a huge compiler project and work on that full-time or you can spend 30% of your time coding a CMS, 20% debugging a new thin client, 15% doing investment research, 10% each tutoring finance virtually, recommending good economics and finance podcasts/blogs, and writing economics articles for an online encyclopedia, and the remaining 5% suggesting good online videos for others to watch, while getting paid for each of those. The current rigid systems of degrees followed by "experience" in some idiotic specialty like HR will be looked back on with almost as much horror as we do today at past child labor in factories in the US.


June 20, 2009 09:23 AM


Pontificating is fine :) But in written form "I agree and", "I agree, but", and "I disgree and" can also sound similar if you don't know the person on the other side of the conversation well. ;)

Not to be contrary, but I very much disagree about job placement and interviewing. Perhaps my experience is skewed by the fact that I do consider myself a "deep subject matter expert", I've interviewed dozens, and despite a couple early misses on behavioral issues, I think I've generally been able to size up a candidate pretty well. You do have to get the right people interviewing. But mainly I just think we can do a lot better than and news ads currently do. Training, certification, and the job advertisement network network can get a lot better, partially by better applicant filtering, but mostly by better employer categorization and advertisement of what they're actually looking for. The relation of most requisition requirements to the actual requirements of a position are a bad joke.

It's true that even in the US it's hard to fire an individual absent a layoff. Even at Intel (which prides itself on being a meritocracy), in the words of my old boss, "We don't actually fire people for performance problems. We just don't give them pay raises and keep calling them names until they quit." That's an exaggeration, but not that much of one. But the shape of employment in the industry is changing substantially as it matures.


June 20, 2009 01:33 PM

CompEng: I would say in the brand of enterprises where the material for Dilbert cartoons seems to be coming from (which overall seem to be those run by "professional management"), the *initial* selection (or perhaps rather initial rejection) of job candidates is generally "outsourced" to HR, or maybe even coopted by HR. From the interviews I have witnessed, it seems the role of HR aside from doing the clerical aspects, and perhaps "consulting" on the "soft skills" evaluation, is to ensure that no legally dicey discrimination is happening (as long as the legal butt is covered it's fine - there is usually a large enough array of "requirements" that can be "waived" or whose presence is largely subjective). Hiring managers often welcome or accept this outsourcing, as esp. in "tech" they often have overloaded job roles with usually more non-management work than they can get done. I don't see that changing anytime soon, especially as I have yet to hear about any company that has recognized they are not entitled to attracting just the "top talent" but they actually have to make an effort combing through larger applicant pools that goes beyond mechanical filtering by keywords and stereotypical credentials.


June 20, 2009 01:35 PM

CompEng: Can you further elaborate "But the shape of employment in the industry is changing substantially as it matures"?


June 20, 2009 01:48 PM

Ajay: I'm not holding my breath for the (aggregate) death of the big players. Individual players will wither or die, but will be replaced by new players growing big. Like in a forest, where the canopy of large trees hinders the growth of smaller plants. Once the fall of a few large trees opens up the canopy, it provides growth opportunity for their successors.

As for 6+ months probation periods, one would expect a 3-month period not to really work for a company like Intel where the ramp up period is substantial, and productivity realistically happens only in the 6-12 months range.

(Informal) reputation systems are in effect already now (and have been for much of history), but they are not the solution - they only advantage a different set of people, those who can best game whatever system is installed.

I believe there is actually no system that can replace the difficult and laborious process of competent evaluation of actually observed performance by an individual or small group who understands the subject matter. Computers can only help with record keeping and formalized data processing, they cannot absolve individuals, groups, and organizations of dealing with the social aspects that defy formal characterization and that have to be constantly renegotiated.


June 20, 2009 07:56 PM

CompEng, agreed with most of what you say except that most interviewers I've seen are horrible. Perhaps you're one of the exceptions that makes the rule but I doubt it, since they all think they're great. ;) I'm actually not sure interviewing has any place whatsoever, that's why I think having people do introductory tasks to get up to speed, as suggested above, will likely replace interviewing.

Cm, outsourcing the initial filtering to HR drones and their idiotic filtering methods brings to mind "garbage in, garbage out." Obviously there will always be differences in company size, the question is what will that distribution look like: will there still be 3 big players that take up 30-60% of a market or will no single player have more than 3-5%? I claim the latter and one big reason is search costs, look at how the webhost market is fragmented in just such a way. In the past, customers often used a heuristic of finding out who the top 3 companies in a market are and buying only from them. However search is now cheap, look at newegg for example: I will buy a completely unknown brand on there if it has good ratings from other customers. This causes an opening up of the market and the resulting market fragmentation will apply to all markets very soon. Current reputation systems are horribly broken, that's the point. For example, what relevance does your bachelors GPA number have for any particular job? And yet there are companies that filter on that, Google famously and stupidly. The point is that with software we can now build highly complex reputation systems that we could not build before at negligible cost, they will be so complex and different than past ones that they will make the old ones look like toys. Make up your mind: have reputation systems been useful for a long time or are they easily gamed no matter what? Gaming is always an issue, say with students who only take easy classes to maintain a good GPA, but the coming systems will be so complex and properly incentivized that I don't see gaming being much of a problem. I agree that talent evaluation is perhaps the hardest thing we do as human beings, perhaps impossible as I acknowledge above, but I disagree that computers cannot revolutionize the process. They will empower decision-makers by greatly amplifying the information available to them and the process will work much better than it ever has, which isn't saying much considering how broken it has been everywhere. As for social aspects, that's neither here nor there, the only real way to deal with that is to document social reputation over time and let people deal with the consequences.


June 20, 2009 10:45 PM

Ajay: Not only the people being rated are gaming the system. There is the aspect of "who's watching the watchers", with computers more so than without. That would be your "decision makers", or the people pulling *their* strings.

Why would you think "objective" data would get into the computers and out?


June 21, 2009 01:05 AM

Actually, there's less of a problem with computers because it's all documented. With the current system, some old employer can bad mouth you when your new potential employer calls them and you'd never find out what actually happened: you just wouldn't get the gig. As I said, I don't think people will really choose who they want to work with, they'll just say what tasks they want done and choose the best results out of the people that try their hand at those tasks. But there will still be some decisions to be made in certain situations and that's what the reputation systems will be for. There won't be anybody pulling the strings when the companies aren't big enough to have a level above the decision makers. Who said anything about objective data? Determining the quality of a potential information worker is mostly subjective, it's just a matter of providing as much information, subjective or objective, for the deciders to make decisions, in the minority of cases where they'll still need to do so based on past performance rather than current performance on introductory tasks.


June 21, 2009 02:22 AM


Having HR handle hiring simply doesn't work in the technical arena at all. as far as I've seen. The teams I've been on never left that to HR. For some reason, the only resumes I've seen from HR have been folks with high GPAs and low talent and communication ability. HR does seem to get gamed horribly.

As far as the shape of employment changing, I'm mostly referring to my company going from big and growing rapidly to big and not growing very rapidly. In the 90's it was hire anyone that breathes and weed them out in ranking and rating, with frequent job hopping on resumes and everyone cashing out to join another startup every few years. Now we're starting to join the real world.


June 21, 2009 02:39 AM


It's entirely possible I'm not as good an interviewer as I think I am, but what's the bar?

When I sit down in front of someone and try to get them talking, I'm trying to figure out if they are smart, if they can communicate well, if they've ever been successful at anything, if they like what they do, and if they have the basic skills needed to learn the rest of what they need on the job.

Obviously interviewing doesn't tell you as much about someone as watching their on-the-job-performance, but that's not the standard for comparison. Interviewing ought to be viewed as just a filter for hiring costs (including relocation) up to the probation period and a way of minimizing the amount of lead time and overhire you'd need to get the team you want.

Keep in mind that being "in-company" vs. "out-of-company" simplifies project management, cost management, IP management, IT, etc. which is why (aside from some silly legacy habits and concerns) hiring into a company and hiring into projects are separate things. There really are some efficiency benefits to "meta-teams". But I agree companies as hiring pools can and should be more flexible than they are.


June 21, 2009 03:54 AM

CompEng, I would say the bar is whether there's someone else out there who could do a much better job than you in the same amount of time? But obviously those people are far and few between so the real point is that those hiring costs that you mentioned have now disappeared for the new model of virtual teams working on projects. Ultimately, the point is that a company as an hiring pool is an outdated concept that will go the way of the dodo bird in the information age. This is nothing new, luminaries like Drucker had predicted it for decades. We're just on the verge of actually making it widespread. :)


June 21, 2009 02:31 PM

"Actually, there's less of a problem with computers because it's all documented."

That appears to be a common fallacy. Only whatever enters the computer and is *publicly accessible* (with audit trail of who did what when and supporting reference for the data origin) is documented. Consider the problem of cleaning up an identity fraud issue and related credit report damage for an analogy. As long the issue is not resolved, there is little recourse for the victim. Everything is in the computer, and the origin of the data is probably documented, i.e. it is known who reported a deliquency.

And that doesn't even address the fundamental problem how relevant the "reputation" data is to actual job performance. In my experience, academic and professional pedigree (title, school, top employer names, publications, etc.) does not correlate nearly as strongly as generally believed to actual on the job performance. More often than not I have found that it's a matter of good social "connections", and people are successful because nobody will mess with those who have good relations with people of influence or esteem (and hence superior retaliation capability), or where the appearance of besmirching a good brand could arise (e.g. criticizing somebody who comes from the same school or employer as a local power broker). So they are left to do their thing undisturbed, and if applicable, superior approaches are suppressed so they are winner by default.

But I don't want to make this into a lecture on office politics. While I seem to have digressed quite a bit from the topic, my point is to illustrate that success in any social setting is mostly a matter of social mechanism - relations, popularity, projecting images and capturing attention etc. Of course, generally a minimum of merit is required, and often present. And maybe that's all we are asking for. I'm under the impression however that the common idea is that of a pretty much linear relationship between renown and performance.


June 21, 2009 02:34 PM

CompEng: I don't want to invite you to pontificate :-), but what you said about the "changing shape of employment" are the generalities that I pretty much take for granted. Can you be more specific (only if you want)?


June 21, 2009 06:46 PM


My original statement sounded a little bit more "profound" than what I was really aiming for. And to be honest I'm a little nervous about getting too specific in this area, because I'd have to go into detail about the problems of the company I work for in a public board, and then extrapolate them to the rest of the industry.

But the emotion behind the observation was triggered by my original excitement of working in one of the "hot" industries of the times. I knew that was starting to pass even by the time I got my Master's, but at least for a while I was able to convince myself I was one of the day's "rocket scientists". I'm ok without that: I've been fascinated by computers since I started studying them (transistors, architecture, compilers, system software, all of it): so I don't need the external validation. But there's a "cool factor" that I used to associate with the work that's moved on. Moving on to the "Itanic" processor (for geographic reasons) hasn't helped that feeling. :)

But suffice it to say the people we're hiring now are in it for different reasons and with different expectations than the guys that grew up with C64s and went into college with a 286 or 386 on their desk.


June 21, 2009 06:50 PM

Cm, let me start off by saying that I already said that most work will use probationary tasks rather than past reputation. However, I do think computerized reputation systems will have a significant role to play. Obviously, there are data access and privacy issues but as I already pointed out, it'll automatically be better than what we have now. I agree with you that current companies are organized very badly: it's a huge joke to me how Mathworks hires so many UMass grads cuz they're the local school, Motorola hired so many UI grads cuz they're HQed in Chicago, and Google hires so many Stanford, Michigan, and Maryland grads cuz those are the founders' alma maters. However, I'm not sure I'd take my critique as far as you did, but then I've never had a job. ;)


June 22, 2009 12:21 AM

CompEng: I don't understand why you would be concerned about commenting without names on the "general" issues that may be observed specifically in your workplace but will apply likewise in many other places, but then are readily letting on that you work in one of the players behind the Itanic, perhaps even the 900 lb gorilla itself ...

On my side, my statements are a synthesis of my first-hand experience and what I know from sources I consider trustworthy. In my opinion it is not difficult to go into *some* detail on such general matters without revealing identifiable data, like specifics of the subject matter in which you deal. Whoever would be interested in identifying me will probably get more out of correlating the linguistic style of my blog comments to known writing samples than any factual statements I make.

So, please comment further if you think you can ...


June 22, 2009 10:47 AM


To answer your first question, information about who I am and who I work for is mine to do with as I please. Information about other people I'm a little bit more careful with, out of honor and courtesy. My employer seems to be pretty paranoid about any information at all, so I try to respect that even when it doesn't make much sense. That said, I did try to answer your question as well as I could without going into specific examples.

For the rest, I'm not sure what you're looking for at this point. :)


June 22, 2009 10:53 AM


I would have said that if you can't find someone that interviews substantially better than I can at comparable cost relative to the benefit, I'm doing ok. Anything above that puts me ahead of the game. :) Supply and demand and all that.

Mark me skeptical on the use of a company as a hiring pool becoming obsolete anytime soon. There probably are some specific functions where that's the case, but I don't expect that to be the dominant trend.


June 22, 2009 11:23 AM

CompEng: Things seem to be pretty bad at your place. What I was looking for is not personal anecdotes. If there are certain patterns and trends you think you can identify, it should be possible to state them without revealing personal details or identifiable information, as you will probably not be speaking about a single individual.

But it's certainly your judgement to make. With the level of pathological suspicion you are hinting at, it's usually the case that any hint of possible information is twisted and stretched to fit whatever prejudices and projections a hypothetical reader/listener is harboring. OTOH that may be the case if you talk about no person at all.


June 22, 2009 11:26 AM

Who knows, maybe in 5-10 years we are all questioned over "documented" computer dossiers of our blog commentary and other online activities by a committee for the investigation of uncorporate and otherwise impure activities ...


June 22, 2009 11:33 AM

I was in a rush, I actually meant "alleged commentary/activities". And it's probably more likely that it would take the shape of informal blacklisting than official inquiries. But then one of the major principles of Western capitalism/democracy is judgement by fact and merit, as systems of favoritism, nepotism, and ideological inner circles have all suffered failure from intellectual suffocation and general ineffectiveness.


June 23, 2009 10:49 AM

Ajay: Check out this link, you may like it -


June 23, 2009 08:45 PM

Cm, I had never read that post but I had already independently thought of everything there, including the anonymous aliases part, so nothing new for me. Reputation systems like that are inevitable, it's only a matter of when and exactly how they're implemented. Micropayments will help make many online services possible, including that one, by monetizing as many transactions as possible.


June 24, 2009 12:14 AM

Ajay: That something has been published somewhere (on the intertubes or even a "reputed" publication) doesn't make it authoritative. (Neither did I mean to endorse the article.) It has on occasion happened to me, in several domains, that I had spent sometimes considerable time to contemplate some "original" (FWIW) idea or epiphany, only to find later that somebody else had already refined it substantially further, perhaps from a different angle, or eloquently presented the same point, sometimes a decade or more in the past.

On the subject matter of reputation systems, I have no doubt they can be made to work, and to an extent they are already here, but I don't expect them to qualitatively or even quantitatively improve anything. For example, I'm completely unimpressed with the likes of Linkedin and similar "networking" services, but then those are not really reputation systems.

Over the course of mostly my career but also general life I have become increasingly disillusioned with the concept of "objective" systems of meritocracy. I believe there is simply no such thing, reputations, assignment of merit, and the evolution of organizational forms are largely governed by social group dynamics, without any textbook theory or stone tablets. That doesn't necessarily mean it's a grassroots effect, there are always power hubs and centers of influence mediating or even controlling everything.

When I was younger, I was holding views perhaps not as "extreme" as yours, but of a similar flavor. My general take is that every individual/generation has to experience most things in life on their own, and attempts of "elders" to successfully convey experience of age are largely futile - people in general (myself included) seem to be incapable of learning from the experience of other age cohorts as it is extremely difficult to relate to their frame of mind if one hasn't experienced what they have.

Aside from that, one's perception will be strongly influenced by one's personal circumstances through which life leads one.

Beyond that, time will show.


June 24, 2009 04:50 AM

Cm, my point wasn't that the article was authoritative, it was that I had already thought of it. As to your point that ideas have usually have been thought of by someone else, that's well known to anybody with a rudimentary knowledge of history. What matters is who has enough belief in the idea to implement it, I will certainly try with reputation systems someday. I claim that future reputation systems will be light years ahead of what we have now, because the essential technical problems are information collection, storage, and retrieval issues that are easily solved by our current IT. I think your disillusionment was probably because of how high a bar you set with "objective" meritocracy, when all human systems are fairly subjective. Regarding your claim that the young can't accept certain facts of life that the old understand, I claim that our technology and society are changing so fast that the old have to stick to increasingly narrow classical subjects, like human nature, because things are changing so fast that their experience often becomes irrelevant. That's the best I can do to counter the generalities you're spewing, more specific claims can be countered with specific arguments. ;)


June 24, 2009 11:13 AM

Ajay: I was formulating a response until I read the "spewing" part, when I said to myself, what's the point.

Tim Stevenson

September 3, 2009 03:51 PM

I believe the statistics do not give the
true picture of the educated and unempoyed. Looking at just my immediate family. I myself have two degrees (1 advanced)and am unemployed. A second
person with an advanced degree is unemployed. Three more with 2-year degrees are employed in remedial work
(underemployed). Another relative with
some college is unemployed. The situation is similar for friends. Many of the unemployed family and friends are totally out of the statistics and do not collect benefits. I am sure that
many individuals are seeing or hearing of the same situations.

I also have friends with advanced degrees that are training for jobs like truck driver, EMT, health care staff assistant. Many are taking huge steps backwards since employment in their area
of expertise is gone.

Tim Stevenson

September 3, 2009 03:51 PM

I believe the statistics do not give the
true picture of the educated and unempoyed. Looking at just my immediate family. I myself have two degrees (1 advanced)and am unemployed. A second
person with an advanced degree is unemployed. Three more with 2-year degrees are employed in remedial work
(underemployed). Another relative with
some college is unemployed. The situation is similar for friends. Many of the unemployed family and friends are totally out of the statistics and do not collect benefits. I am sure that
many individuals are seeing or hearing of the same situations.

I also have friends with advanced degrees that are training for jobs like truck driver, EMT, health care staff assistant. Many are taking huge steps backwards since employment in their area
of expertise is gone.

Ron Lesser

November 16, 2009 06:46 PM

Education is not the major weighted component to getting
work in depression like conditions. Putting a slab of bacon
on top of a greased pole and telling 500 Americans to go get it. Is not a solution. The solution to obtaining work is new assertion of old ideas such as trade tariffs and barriers. elimination of outsourcing. Renewing a manufacturing base. Rebuilding an economic engine. Education is good but it is not. I repeat not the major weighted component in the equation to the economic support of the US population. In the present economic conditions, the weight of a further educated population obtaining substantial employment is negligible. The solution will be political
barring any major technological advance in the next 10 years. Additionally that advance must be found by the US, not another country.

Thank you for your interest. This blog is no longer active.



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