Google is positioning its new job-search product as an effort to save America

A U.S. flag flies above the Google office in Santa Monica, California, October 3, 2007. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson (UNITED STATES)
A U.S. flag flies above the Google office in Santa Monica, California, October 3, 2007. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson (UNITED STATES)
Image: REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
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Before Google CEO Pichai Sundar announced the launch of a new search feature at the company’s annual conference for developers on May 18, he shared a statistic: “46% of US employers say they face talent shortages and have issues filling open job positions.”

He went on to describe how Google could help. “While job seekers may be looking for openings right next door, there’s a big disconnect here…. We want to better connect employers and job seekers through a new initiative, Google for Jobs.” The feature improves the company’s search engine results for jobs by aggregating listings from sites such as LinkedIn, Careerbuilder, and Monster.

USA Today’s exclusive story on Google’s announcement about jobs on May 17 presaged the theme of Sundar’s presentation with the headline “Google to launch Google for Jobs to help Americans find work.” And on May 19, Google reiterated the positioning again with a blog post announcing the new feature, titled “Connecting more Americans with jobs.”

Google has positioned “Google for Jobs” not as a new product, but as an effort to help America.

The branding fits into a messaging trend that has spread across US companies in the wake of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, which tapped into anxiety about the future of work in the country. Apple in May inexplicably launched a new section of its website detailing the company’s distribution of US employees  (“two million US jobs and counting,” it says). GE recently appointed an executive to lead a “future of work” initiative. And many companies, including Walmart and General Motors, have publicized plans that explicitly call out their intention to hire US workers. Highlighting job-creation efforts has become almost as trendy as highlighting sustainability efforts. Of course, in some cases the reality is business as usual.

Google for Jobs is a useful feature. It’s similar to Google products that aggregate news articles from different websites, products from different shopping sites, flight booking information from different airlines, and travel listings from different online travel catalogs. Google for Jobs will almost certainly deliver more comprehensive results than any of the sites it pulls from can on their own.

But while it is true that there are a record 6 million job openings in the US, it’s not clear that a better job-search engine will lower that number.

The statistic that Google reiterates in its advertising of the new job-search feature—that 46% of US employers face talent shortages—comes from a survey of 2,200 hiring managers, commissioned by the ManpowerGroup, a company that sells human-resource software and consulting services. In the same survey, only 23% of employers reported that they couldn’t fill jobs because they lacked applicants. Another 18% of employers cited lack of experience; 16% cited pay expectations; 12% cited a lack of soft skills such as social and communication capabilities; and 16% cited a lack of hard skills, specific teachable skills required for the job (some employers chose more than one option).

Economists have offered their own theories for why America has 6 million open jobs: The US workforce is aging; the proportion of start-ups in the economy is declining, leaving more hiring up to large firms with bureaucracies that make hiring a slower process; technology allows for more careful scrutiny of candidates; expectations from employers have become unrealistic; and jobs taken over by automation are replaced (pdf) by jobs that either are unappealing to workers because they pay much less than previous jobs or are out of reach from a skills perspective.

Only Google has suggested that disaggregated online job listings are a factor in the gap between the 6 million US job openings and the 6.8 million US workers who are looking for jobs.

The job search feature, meanwhile, improves the utility of the Google search engine and gives the company more data about users—two factors critical to its advertising business.

A Google spokesperson did not immediately respond for a request to comment on this article.