Why the Middle Class Can't Find Jobs

Nancy Anderson
Posted by

As of June 2017, economic reports indicate that more job vacancies exist than were available in the year 2000, but millions of Americans in the middle class are without work. If there are so many jobs available, why are there still so many unemployed citizens out there? Here are 6 reasons that those in the middle class can't find jobs.

1. They Don't Possess the Required Skills

Many middle-class workers don't have the job skills or experience to qualify for the vacant positions. Automation is a huge part of many modern businesses, so workers with technological skills are in high demand, and a laid-off plumber isn't likely to fare well in the technology field. This skills mismatch can be a hindrance for jobseekers and employers looking to hire. The healthcare and social services industry is also lacking in qualified workers to fill a multitude of vacant positions.

2. There's No Training Available

When workers lack the required skills to fulfill certain job duties, some employers simply provide training. Others, however, aren't as willing to offer the education. This keeps the middle class from getting work.

3. The Location Isn't Right

The majority of vacant positions are in South and the Midwest. It's clear that these regions lack the qualified workers necessary to fill the open jobs.

4. The Wages Are Too Low

Many middle-class workers aren't taking jobs because the pay is too low. Employers who aren't willing to increase wages often have trouble finding skilled workers to fill vacant positions. When unemployment rates were high and workers were desperately seeking positions that were in short supply, companies could get away with this mindset, but the logic doesn't apply when there are lots of vacant positions out there for workers to consider.

5. The Incentives Aren't Good Enough

In addition to higher pay, jobseekers also want to find positions with companies that offer excellent benefits packages. Businesses that aren't ready to increase their wages aren't likely to want to pay more for employee benefits either.

6. They Don't Want to Work

There are 6.7 million unemployed Americans, and there are approximately 6 million vacant positions. As of June 2017, however, America's unemployment rate is only 4.3 percent, indicating that the country is close to achieving full employment. This means that nearly every citizen who wants a job has a job. The 4.3 percent can be chalked up to workers who are cyclically unemployed, whether they're laid off, seasonal workers or recently quit a job.

With so many middle-class Americans out of work, it's important to find out why these individuals can't find jobs. What's even more puzzling is that, as of June 2017, some six million job openings exist. So why is it that these middle-class workers are still unable to find work? This list of 6 reasons provides the answers.

Photo courtesy of imagerymajestic at FreeDigitalPhotos.net


Become a member to take advantage of more features, like commenting and voting.

  • Ashraf R.
    Ashraf R.


  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    @Andrea C thanks for your comment. It is mostly across the board as we hear this all of the time. Companies want the best talent they can get for the lowest wage they can get by with. Makes me very upset, too. In spite of all of the publicity the unemployment rate keeps getting - it's because we have been forced to accept jobs at less than what we are worth only because we don't have a choice. They know it and they pray on that. If you can remember 10+ years ago, this same thing happened. When the market tanked, there were numerous stories on PhDs not being able to get a job at McDonalds. Just another sign that those who were higher up in the chain were being forced out and they, in turn, were forcing us out. Things seem to have stabilized somewhat - at least according to our President. I sure do hope you gave them an earful when you turned down the low-ball position! All the best in finding a position that fits your needs with a salary to match.

  • Andrea C.
    Andrea C.

    I’m finding that many high executives who have lost their jobs are taking ones that most middle class individuals seek. A lot of homeless people are choosing to live that way because they don’t want someone telling them they have to follow the rules. I’m also seeing a high demand of education for entry level jobs and employers not wanting to pay what that education should be providing. I’m not seeing fair market value. I’m sure that’s not across the board but I am seeing it/experiencing it.

  • Laura D.
    Laura D.

    Do what you love because if you can make money at what you enjoy then you're doubly blessed & so are the people around you!

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    Thanks for your comments. @Angelyn R. so sorry that you are struggling. You indicated that you apply for jobs daily. Are these jobs for which you are qualified? Is your resume showing that? After you apply, are you following up with the company? Back in the old days you could submit your resume in the morning and be called by the afternoon. Not so much today. Today you resume is sent through an Applicant Tracking Software (ATS). It's a software program that screens your resume for things that the hiring manager felt were important - such as number of years of experience or certain skills, etc. If it doesn't make it through this, it is either discarded or put on file for a specified period of time. So, the first thing is to get passed ATS. Make sure that your resume is reflecting what the job posting is asking for. It's only after it gets through the ATS that is seen by any human. So, ATS is the first challenge. Secondly - how many jobs are you applying for daily? Are you treating your job search as a job? Putting in the time required? What about your skills? Are you keeping up to date with them? Not sure what you type of position you are seeking but you might want to consider finding a temp agency in your area and applying through them. Or even a recruiter could help. @Tonya K. it's a bit late to try to get a position for Christmas. Seasonal hires usually begin around late Sept/early Oct. But what I discussed above could help you, too. So many people send desperate emails about losing their homes, etc. and, when you drill down, you find out that they have only applied for a handful of jobs. To find a job in today's world, you have to treat it like a job. Get up and get "ready for work". Sit down and do some serious searching for a position and then do your due diligence by researching the company, etc. Realistically you could probably apply for several positions per day. My suggestion is to keep a spreadsheet on the positions for which you applied so that you aren't duplicating your efforts and so that you can follow up with the companies. Hope that helps. The jobs are there - just a matter of finding one that works for you. All the best!

  • Angelyn R.
    Angelyn R.

    I have my first grandchild and i cant teach her anything struggling like i am im a greatw

  • Angelyn R.
    Angelyn R.

    I apply for jobs daily and nothing is happening how can i get some work

  • Tonya K.
    Tonya K.

    I have four children and a grand baby my income decreased dramatically, need substantial employment for Christmas and to save my house.

  • Theresa R.
    Theresa R.

    Jobs are increasing, struggling to eat while pregnant was hell.

  • JANE C.
    JANE C.

    I want to do actions that help actual people.

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    @Chante R thanks for your great comments. So true that some companies put too much emphasis on education instead of on actual experience. Personally I would prefer experience over the education any day. It is true that some people take a job and then just settle in with no ambition to move on or to better themselves. It is unfortunate when you have to work for a manager who doesn't have the first clue about what to do except for what he/she learned in textbooks. It's true that many colleges do not teach for real life. But some of them do and that seems to be a trend that is starting - slowly - where colleges and companies are reaching out to each other to teach students what they will need to work at the local companies. If you are having issues finding a good job, maybe you should consider jumping on the bandwagon and get a certification to include on your resume. It would be interesting to see if it really makes that much difference.

  • Chante R.
    Chante R.

    @Waple Francois YOU ARE ABSOLUTELY RIGHT as well. I have gotten that "You are overqualified" remark as well. And I'm thinking, "Isn't that why you should hire me?"

  • Chante R.
    Chante R.

    @Bryan R. A. I completely agree with your comment. Most HR people try to find the perfect candidate instead of the candidate who may have not all of the credentials but have the willingness to learn and grow. So those candidates get passed and the ones who are chosen may come in knowing it all and but they have no willingness to grow. I think that most of us have the heart for the position, lack the experience, but are willing to learn that position. I will say that I have some college experience. Most of my life I have been working and gaining knowledge and experience to teach others how to do that same job. I think that it is unfair that most employers look for Educational Status, i.e. require Bachelor Degrees rather than experience. Most colleges do not even teach on the "real life" industry a student goes to get a degree in. I have worked with Project Managers who didn't even know the basis of how healthcare enrollment and claims work, but were getting paid more for their certification. I have been in positions where I knew and understood more about how the healthcare system worked than my managers did. But because I did not have a degree, I was ineligible to apply for a management position let alone a training position.

  • Annette H.
    Annette H.

    I completely agree with the article. So true!

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    @Bryan R. A. thanks for your comment and your insight. In most cases today, companies are using software to screen out applicants prior to any resume getting to an HR. Certainly agree that the nonsense questions and jumping through hoops for the job seeker must stop. It's just the sign of the times - for right now. Sure, 10 years ago you could submit your resume one day and be scheduling an interview the next. But, for the most part, that practice has stopped entirely. Now it's all computer based with minimal human interface. As the song says, - times they are a changing.

  • Bryan R. A.
    Bryan R. A.

    Articles like this are nonsense - I have been a Senior C Level Executive for 40+ Years for several international / global companies. I know from experience and observation that the biggest impediment to finding qualified employees is the Human Resourses Department and recruiters and how the interview process is conducted. All interviews are conducted to identify reasons to disqualify job candidates. I and other executives agree with me...they lost really good job candidates because of stupid questions ask by Human Resource and recruiters looking for "Red Flags" searching for the perfect employee. Many of the Human Resources employees to not have the skills to recognize real talent and cross over skills required to do the job We all have warts, do not fit in and we all act like jerks sometimes at work...that is just apart of life. There are only 4 Questions any hiring manager needs to ask a job candidate to hire the correct employee...and they are not the following questions: "Tell me about yourself?" "If you were a cookie what kind of cookie would you be? Or if you were a animal - what kind of animal would you be?. I ask an HR person once...Do you make cookies here or have a Zoo in-house - will I be working with animals? These HR people recruiters are unqualified to be amateur psychologists. I bet I could fill most of the open jobs today if I interviewed job candidates. Of the hundreds of people I have hired over the years - I have only had to fire one because they made a practice of not coming to work on time. I have hired and promoted employees that I personally did not like; however, they did a really great job.

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    Thanks for the great comments and apologies to those who were upset with this article. It's true that the middle class in America are struggling to get and maintain jobs. Companies do seem to want to hire those just out of HS or college so that they can pay less than desirable wages. These six reasons why were based on an article from Cheat Sheet. Number 6 seems to be a real sticking point, too. Sadly, surveys indicate that many folks don't want to work. I don't understand it, either - how do they survive? I am a part of the middle class as well as a part of those over 50. @Waple Francois thanks for your comment. I don't blame you for feeling the way you do. We should not have to learn a second language to work in our own country. Those coming into our country, legally or otherwise, need so learn to speak English - not us having to learn to speak Spanish. If we went to their country, they would expect us to speak their language. @Debra R S so sorry that you are having a hard time finding a job. I know - it used to be that you could walk around and see Help Wanted signs in a store window. You could go in and inquire about the job and maybe even fill out a paper application while you are there. Now everything seems to be online. Even if you see a help wanted sign, the directions are to apply online. To add insult to injury, even if you submit your application in the way requested, you could still be disqualified if your resume does not meet their criteria - such as your education does not match their requirements or it does not include the right keywords, etc. Today, when you apply for a job, your resume goes through an applicant tracking software (ATS) which scans your resume and scores it based upon preset criteria. If it doesn't score high enough, it's either discarded or put into a resume bank for a specified period of time (usually 6 months). No human even views your resume until/unless it passes this test. That makes it even harder to get your resume in front of a hiring manager. Sorry - I know this is hard but it's the way of the world today. So make sure that you are including keywords from the posting so that you can get your resume in front of the hiring manager. @Scott S it's probably true that companies hide behind the "required skills" category. Unfortunately they are the ones calling the shots. All we can do, as job seekers, is to follow the directions; make our resume keyword rich so that we can get an interview. As I mentioned before, the above article was based on an article from Cheat Sheet and these reasons are what their survey found. We have to work within the system and, at this time, employers are calling the shots.


    I believe this information does not reflect the true reasons why we as middle-class people are unemployed.
    Everyone including baby boomers has acquired some degree of technical skills, from sitting at home on their personal computers, smartphones, and other technical devices or google. Job requirements should be base on what you know period, but the emphasis is, most jobs are basing the required skills on what was acquired in the workforce and noted on a resume. Note to employers, a resume is not large enough to include a person's life experiences and those experiences should be considered skills. There was a time when the required skills were the ability to learn and learn quickly and individuals were trained on the job.
    I live in the South and I have a BS degree in Health Services Administration and experience in customer service, tax accounting, and the health industry.
    During my job hunting, I receive feedback like, "an impressive resume but overqualified. Can someone please explain to me how could someone be over qualify." I believe that is another way of saying I cannot pay you, what you are worth. Why not give me the chance to accept the lower pay rate, instead of assuming I would not accept it.
    Furthermore, if that's it; then why encourage individuals to spend large sums of money to complete college degrees that will not yield an increased income.
    As I mention before I live in the South and I also have to compete with my inability to speak Spanish. This is one of my biggest hurdles. Sadly it is not my lack of experience or education but the area I live in that determined my employability.
    I heard someone mention that jobs are being exported to different parts of the world, for a lesser income, and this is true. But sadly the problem does not stop there because we English speaking Americans need to work, have the required skills, live in the right location (that should not include speaking another language), is willing to start at a lower pay rate and don't need much incentive. Still, we are not considered for positions. I am unemployed because I am not considered, not interviewed and not fluent in Spanish. No offense to my Spanish speaking friends.

  • Scott S.
    Scott S.

    Wow. I find it amazing how writers and media types kowtow to those paying them (or those who they hope will pay them in the future) without having to disclose this conflict of interest. Looking for a job? Suck up to employers.
    I found parts of the article consistent with my experiences; Location, Low Wages, No Training and Poor Incentives hit the nail on the head. Where I find the heavily "employer" twist in her article is in the "Don't Possess the Required Skills" and "Don't Want to Work" bullets.

    "Don't Possess the Required Skills" is one of the biggest B.S. excuses that employers use to justify granting Visas to foreigners that are paid poorly and easily intimidated. It the technical fields, where most of the H1B Visas are granted, jobs are worded in such a way that only someone who works in an IT center in Bangalore can qualify for. Unreasonable amounts of experience in obscure products (used heavily in 3rd world countries) exclude Americans who, when employed in America, didn't have access to leading-edge products or training at work. Employers provide no training in the latest skills yet use the lack of current skills to import lower-cost employees.

    "Don't Want to Work" is simply an insult to every baby boomer and hard working American looking for work. Yes, there are always people that don't want to work. Yet this is the exception and not the rule as Nancy suggests. Once again this is a total suck-up to those Nancy hopes to be paying her in the future. Yes, there are those who don't want to work but this is a result of America's growing Socialist tendencies and doesn't reflect significantly on why people remain out of work.

    The truth be told is that America's ever-increasing unemployed middle-class numbers are a result of shrinking wages paid by employers, the importing of cheap foreign labor, over taxation by government (local, state and federal), a move from a manufacturing to a service economy (offshoring of jobs) and an increasing move to Socialism prompted by politics and the media.

    Nancy started with a great idea but her sell-out left the article hollow and sad.

  • Linda Y.
    Linda Y.

    I find this article very insulting. It includes the ideas that I have seen in the hiring process that are false, or at least questionable, that permeate the hiring process. In my case, I am a financial/accounting professional who has been looking for a position since the first of the year after being laid off, through no fault of my own, by an employer who was and still is in deep financial trouble. (1) I have kept all of my skills current and have even systematically updated these since my lay-off. I also have both a Bachelors degree in my field and an MBA. (2) If my former employer did not provide training, I went out and found the training using my own time and funds. (3) I live in the south (Florida) (4) I have communicated my willingness to accept a lower salary, if that salary is what the job pays. My financial position is good enough where I don't require a huge salary. (5) I don't really pay too much attention to incentives and this is not a deal breaker for me. (6) I want to work. I have always worked and it is a big part of who I am. The problem as I see it is many employers are hiring young people with no experience, no background, no willingness to really work past the minimum hours and no willingness to engage in continuing education. They lack the ability to be team players and use their ambition and willingness to be less than honest to promote themselves. They often believe in the concept of "fake it till you make it". There is no value anymore in dedication to an employer. I try not to be bitter and move ahead to find new opportunities, but the task has been more than I ever expected it to be. Just my thoughts on these issues.

  • Debra R S.
    Debra R S.

    Now I am back in the unemployed for months (March - present) without a job, no way to walk around and see who is hiring because you need to apply through the internet where all the scammers are located.

  • Debra R S.
    Debra R S.

    I have another simpilar reason. The hiring process. When I left high school, I walked the city and had a job that day as a bookkeeper. I could not obviously perform all the requirements, but for the day I logged in all their accounts receivable. Then I walked the city and bussed and read the paper and found another job and the next the same way with prompting from someone who knew someone and then learned of another one and then was married, had children homeschooled then went back to the work force in a glorious made for me position that lasted nine years,

  • Cheryl C.
    Cheryl C.

    I worked for a company for 27yrs and laid off 3yrs prior to retirement. I immediately went back to school to complete my education while working a minimum wage job. I now have a Bachelors in Business and a Masters in Training and Development. Now here is "deal" pickle!!!! I have filled out a great deal of online applications to only receive 2 yes 2 responses stating my qualifications aren't enough or that I don't have the experience necessary to fill the position. I am technically savvy and have numerous years of experience in payroll and HR. Therefore, looking at the affirmationed reasons that the middle class are unemployed or unemployable seems a little ludicrous. I truly believe that most of those 6 million supposedly jobs do not exist. I do however believe that age is playing a major factor in companies hiring practices. Are we "old dogs" too old to learn new tricks???? I think not. Many of the mature unemployed are willing to work harder, stay longer and conform to new ideas than most employers would think. The reason I say this is because we NEED a job not just want one. Mind you there is a big difference between the two. We don't call off and show up on time. I feel companies would do well to hire more displaced workers. We do want to work. Albeit there is a surmountable truth to the seven reasons the middle class is unemployed however there are so many that the reasons don't ring true. I have been blessed to have found employment but I'm still under pay and struggling to pay for the education that was supposed to afford me a better outlook.

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    Thanks for the great comments. We hear you. Hear the frustration. @Sean W, we hear all of the time that job seekers do not have the required skills. Frustrating to say the least! If they don't have them, how are they supposed to get them? I also thought that a good idea for companies is to have a partnership with the local community and higher education colleges and universities wherein the skills needed to fill the positions is taught. How awesome would it be to know that, when you get your degree, you have a job waiting?!!! Not sure how they get the 6 million open positions number from but I do know that companies are hiring. @Jerry W - as for number 6 - you might be amazed at how many people don't want to work. They want to apply for disability or just depend on others to care for them. You might be amazed at how many people don't even want to take the time to write up a resume and a cover letter. They want someone else to do it for them. So how do you think they might fair if they actually got a position? Sad!!! I do hear your frustration. So I have to ask - are you using outside assistance? Have you contacted a recruiter who places applicants in your field? Sometimes they are the best way go get your foot in the door. Same with temp agencies. I know I went through a temp agency to work a position for 30 days. I was quite frustrated at that point because I wanted a permanent position. Well, after about a week of working the position, I was offered it permanently. The individual who was supposed to have the position was given another position in another department. I hated that I took her position but there was no way for me to know that - until later, when we met in person. I also was placed in a position by a recruiter and it was a great fit at the time. So there are other options out there for you. Try going through a temp agency or a recruiter. You don't have anything to lose by trying. Also make sure that you are networking. It's a great way to reconnect with former coworkers and could open up doors to unpublished openings. @Carmella D hear you on the education part, also. Companies want to see that you can follow through and complete your education which is why they want those degrees. Since you are close to getting your degree, it would be great if you could finish it. The education issue is going to come up for every job for which you apply. And it should be current education - not a degree that you were working on ten years ago. Same with skills - especially if you are in any technical fields. Skills need to be current. I know it's frustrating but companies still have the option of choosing the brightest and the best from those who apply. Wishing you all the best in your endeavors.

  • Sean W.
    Sean W.

    I really appreciate what this post brings to light. It accentuates factors and trends that continue to show what's shrinking the Middle Class, and today's market and where it's going tomorrow. Here's some of what I understand....... I understand, no matter how you look at it, it's about the BOTTOM LINE for companies, which may require setting new objectives and making organizational changes. I understand and believe as a seasoned professional (or middle-class worker), I'm responsible (like everyone else) for my own personal and professional development. I understand and believe that you have to SELL YOURSELF to others, treating yourself as a commodity by showing the value you have and can add to an organization.....I get it!..... But, I take issue with reason #6, "They Don't Want to Work". I find it hard to believe it's an overwhelming factor, in general, for the Middle-Class based on reasons #1 and #2. And, if there are 6.7 million unemployed with the approximately (or apparently) 6 million vacant openings, I believe there are other factors, inhibitors or reasons, parlayed with the first 2 reasons, to an extent, playing a significant part in this disparity. I believe most people, like myself, know those factors are an unfortunate reality for the Middle-Class professional/worker to maneuver through.

Jobs to Watch