Our big economic conundrum

by Ryan Streeter on June 26, 2012. Follow Ryan on Twitter.

Today’s Gallup Economic Confidence Index raises one of the most troubling questions of our present economic stagnation: could we be doing better if Americans were better prepared for the kinds of jobs available now?

The index has basically dropped back to where it was in January. Americans are not feeling too great about the economy.

But here’s the weird thing: you’ll hear over and over and over and over throughout the ¬†American heartland that employers have jobs but can’t find people to fill them. I literally read or hear this nearly every day. It’s like a broken record. ¬†As manufacturing makes a rebound in parts of the Midwest, for instance, the biggest complaint that you hear from the employers is they can’t find enough qualified workers.

You hear it across almost every industry cluster. There are jobs. There is cash sitting on balance sheets. Things should be going better.

And yet Americans feel stuck. They feel glum. They feel lousy about the economy. Some percentage of respondents to the Gallup poll (I don’t know how many of course) have surely looked for work unsuccessfully, and some who are employed have probably looked unsuccessfully for something better than what they’ve got.

So the really interesting question right now is to what degree there is a mismatch between employers’ sense of opportunity (even lost opportunity) and the economic pessimism of American workers. Something strange is going on in our economy right now.