Many people with disabilities have enhanced strengths, such as the special ability of blind people to interpret sounds and touch, or the outstanding knack of people on the autism spectrum to observe detail. Not so well known is the potential of this large and untapped resource of excellence for the economy and society. We call these enhanced strengths "coolabilities." Powerful technologies are today ready to open the door to a new paradigm of work: instead of squeezing people into existing job slots, companies can tailor work that fits individuals' unique skills, talents, and passions, matching them with inspiring teams and offering them a choice of meaningful tasks. This has tremendous benefits for both the employee and employer by creating a "long-tail labor market" in which diversity brings competitive advantage.
"Solid labor market conditions are drawing people back into the workforce, a trend that could slow the pace of decline in the jobless rate, but provide an additional boost to the pool of available talent for employers," Jim Baird, a partner and chief investment officer at Plante Moran Financial Advisors, wrote in a research note Friday. "It seems like a bit of a broken record, but compared with any number of other gauges of the strength of the economy, labor market conditions have been a relatively consistent bright spot that should be expected to contribute to the virtuous cycle of economic expansion."
The unemployment rate climbed for the second consecutive month in November as the tightest labor market in decades induced people to leave their jobs in search of better opportunities, government data showed Friday. Meanwhile, job availability improved in November, showing that companies remain eager to take on more workers amid a severe labor shortage. The job openings to job applicant ratio stood at 1.63, according to the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, rising for the first time in two months after slipping to 1.62 the previous month. That means there were 163 openings for every 100 people looking for a job, near the highest level in 45 years. A government official said that labor market conditions are continuing to improve, as evidenced by the 770,000 people who chose to quit during the reporting month, suggesting they were confident in finding better positions.
"This is really one of our business imperatives, because we know that there is a talent crisis," said Nitcelle B. Emanuels, director of diversity and inclusion at Dell. "We need to get more creative." With the national unemployment rate now flirting with a 50-year low, companies are increasingly looking outside the traditional labor force for workers. They are offering flexible hours and work-from-home options to attract stay-at-home parents, full-time students and recent retirees. They are making new accommodations to open up jobs to people with disabilities. They are dropping educational requirements, waiving criminal background checks and offering training to prospective workers who lack necessary skills.
The nation's labor market loosened slightly in October, government data showed Friday, though it remained near the tightest level seen in decades as companies struggled to find workers due to an aging population. The country's job availability ratio stood at 1.62, falling for the first time in eight months after marking a nearly 45-year high of 1.64 in September. The ratio, released by the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, means there were 162 openings for every 100 job seekers. The unemployment rate was 2.4 percent in October, up from 2.3 percent the previous month but still near the lowest level posted in 1992, according to the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications. The slight rise in unemployment reflected an increase in people who had begun looking for new jobs to take advantage of the tight market, said a government official who briefed reporters.