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May/June 2013, 
Vol. 95, No. 3
Posted 2013-06-26

Labor Mismatch in the Great Recession: A Review of Indexes Using Recent U.S. Data

by Maria E. Canon, Mingyu Chen, and Elise A. Marifian

Labor mismatch, also known as structural imbalance, can be defined as a poor match between the characteristics of unemployed workers and those required for vacant jobs. In the wake of the jobless recovery from the Great Recession, economists have sought to explain the coexistence of a high unemployment rate and increasing job openings as a mismatch phenomenon. This article reviews five studies that have contributed to the development of mismatch indexes and computes the corresponding indexes over the period May 2005–May 2012 using job vacancy data from the Conference Board Help Wanted OnLine® (HWOL) Data Series. For most of the indexes, mismatch increased during the Great Recession, although the indexes exhibit a range of behaviors. According to an index developed in Jackman and Roper (1987), mismatch can account for at most 2.72 percentage points of the 5.30-percentage-point increase in the unemployment rate from the beginning of the recession to the unemployment rate peak.