'Spatial mismatch' hurts employers, applicants in major cities
"Spatial mismatch," when low-income job candidates live too far from open jobs to take them, is pervasive in major U.S. metro areas, according to the Urban Institute. After examining 2017 data from Snag, an online job board for hourly workers, the nonprofit found job listings outnumbered available job seekers in zip codes in 12 out of 16 cities it examined.
The city with the greatest percentage of zip codes in which open jobs far outnumbered available workers was Boston, followed by New York City, San Francisco, Chicago and Minneapolis, the Urban Institute determined. For the study, the Urban Institute gave 6.3 miles as the farthest reasonable distance that potential workers could live from the center of each zip code to be able to work a job in that zip code.
In several cities, this type of spatial mismatching didn't occur in any zip codes. However, the data showed the reverse to be common in these cities, with the number of hourly job seekers exceeding the number of job listings in around half of the zip codes in Miami and Atlanta, and around one-third of the zip codes in Detroit and Austin. Both kinds of spatial mismatching — too many job openings with too few workers, and too many workers with too few job openings — occurred in 11 of the 16 cities the nonprofit examined.
Cities have some power to fix this problem, the Urban Institute stressed, both in the long term by planning affordable housing in close proximity to employment hubs and in the short term by improving public transportation. But what can employers — especially those in the food service and hospitality industries — do to minimize spatial mismatch? One solution could include making hourly service jobs more enticing by providing potential workers with a career path, the Urban Institute said. For a chance to grow and earn more money, food service and hospitality workers might agree to longer commutes, and in turn, employers in these industries may retain more workers, the group suggested.
Given that the tight labor market leaves few industries with an abundant talent pool, employers hiring candidates for salaried roles or roles in knowledge-based industries still ought to consider how spatial mismatching can cut them off from potential workers. Short of picking up and moving the office or ending the blacklisting of candidates who live more than six miles away, employers can offer flexible work schedules and transit benefits to appeal to commuters. Making more positions remote also can lower the barrier to entry for candidates who live further away — and it gives talent professionals a larger group to recruit from, too.