Those of us who actually work in industry and are involved in large engineering projects of the type the stimulus was designed to ‘stimulate’ could have told you this without waiting for a study. We tried to. No one was listening.
It is maddening to hear ‘workers’ talked about as if they are interchangeable – Oh, a whole bunch of home construction workers have been layed off? Don’t worry, we’ll build a road or a bridge and employ them!” The only problem being that the type of construction home builders are trained for has nothing to do with bridges.
This is an undeniable fact – and is something that it is important to keep in mind when discussing labour market dynamics. Now, the article goes on to say that only Austrain economists look at this issue – I call bull on that, there is a whole bunch of literature on heterogenous labour in labour economics, during the recession New Zealand economists have constantly talked about job mismatch (an understanding of that is one of the reasons why any stimulus spending has been more targeted), and the only reason it is often not modelled explicitly is because it can be hard to describe/make the model solve.
Even in the most general and non-detailed areas of applied macroeconomics, economists often use empirical models with some sort of implied labour market friction that is meant to proxy the mismatch – not a perfect solution, but definitely an indication that it isn’t being ignored.
In fact, I’ve been reading a lot of commentators in NZ discussing the areas where skill shortages still existed in the middle of the recession – in this country policy analysts, economists, and humans all seem to have a good understanding of the differences in labour and the value of human capital … maybe this is just an issue that NZ is more informed on.