Rep. Dave Joyce On Unfilled Jobs: Businesses Can't Find Enough 'Sober,' 'Drug-Free' Workers

GOP Congressman On Unfilled Jobs: Businesses Can't Find Enough 'Sober,' 'Drug-Free' Workers

WASHINGTON -- The economy and jobs continue to dominate discussions lawmakers have with their constituents during the August recess, as many Americans are still out of work and worried about their next paycheck. In a speech to a local Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday, Rep. Dave Joyce (R-Ohio) argued that part of the problem is that there are millions of jobs that remain vacant each month.

"There's 3 million jobs every month in this country that go unfilled," said Joyce in his remarks to the Stow-Munroe Falls Chamber of Commerce. "Believe me, the [Cleveland] Plain Dealer already fact-checked me on it because they couldn't believe me. They thought I was lying, and they actually came up with a higher number than 3 million."

"And the trouble is, it's because they either can't find people to come to work sober, daily, drug-free and want to learn the necessary skills going forward to be able to do those jobs," he added.

Watch Joyce's comments in the video above, which was acquired by the House Majority PAC with the assistance of American Bridge.

The Plain Dealer and PolitiFact Ohio rated Joyce's comment about the number of unfilled jobs as "true" when he made a similar remark in February.

But when asked by The Huffington Post for data on his assertion that businesses can't find unemployed workers to hire who are sober or drug-free, Joyce's spokeswoman said the congressman was relying on anecdotes from business owners.

"3.9 million jobs go unfilled in this country each month," said Christyn Keyes. "Rep. Joyce sees that as an enormous problem and to fix a problem, you must accurately diagnose it. Rep. Joyce has made it a top priority to meet with small business owners and job creators and a concern that comes up time and time again is substance abuse among the workforce and adequate workforce training."

"Rep. Joyce came to Washington to be a fact-based problem solver and during this 20-second clip of a 15-minute speech," she added, "he was simply sharing the concerns of small-business owners with other local business leaders."

According to United States Department of Labor data, there are typically millions of job openings each month in the U.S., during good and bad economic times. Although some people have blamed this high number of vacancies on a lack of skills or ambition among the unemployed, labor experts attribute many of these openings to normal job turnover as well as the pickiness of employers during times of high unemployment.

"The biggest problem in the labor market is not a skills shortage," the New York Times editorial board recently wrote. "[R]ather, it is a persistently weak economy where businesses do not have sufficient demand to justify adding employees."

Michael Evangelist is a policy analyst with the National Employment Law Project, which advocates for low-wage workers. He said the substance-abusing unemployed person is a "bogeyman" that occasionally leads to drug-testing.

"Most states ended up not doing it," said Evangelist. "One reason was the cost -- it just costs too much. You don't find enough people that failed the drug test to make it worthwhile to save you the money."

Evangelist pointed to Florida, which did not save money when Gov. Rick Scott (R) mandated drug-testing for welfare recipients. In fact, 2.5 percent of beneficiaries flunked -- far lower than the percentage of people in the general population who use drugs.

The National Federation of Independent Business, a conservative group representing small businesses, published a 2012 report, "Small Business Problems and Priorities," that ranked "finding and keeping skilled employees" as the 39th most pressing problem for small businesses and "locating qualified employees" as the 32nd problem.

Jean Card, a spokeswoman for the organization, however, said the group has not collected any data on whether substance-abuse is a reason for the inability to find or keep workers.

Joyce, of course, isn't the first politician to air the concerns about unemployed Americans who can't pass drug tests.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett (R) recently faced criticism when he said, "there are many employers who say, 'look, we’re looking for people but we can’t find anybody that has passed a drug test', a lot of them."

In 2011, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R) found herself in hot water when she claimed that "half" of the job applicants at a nuclear reservation site failed a drug test. In reality, fewer than 1 percent of the applicants flunked.

The House Majority PAC has made Joyce one of its top "targets" to oust in the 2014 elections.

Dave Jamieson contributed reporting.

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