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Why Do States Waste Taxpayer Money On Job Boards?
With the announcement that JobDig is launching its next market in Indianapolis on August 4th, I came across Indianacareerconnect, a job board operated by the state of Indiana. I have been tracking Minnesota’s job board, Minnesotaworks.net, for years and I have been continually baffled as to why states feel the need to offer this service to jobseekers and employers in their states. Bafflement would turn the frustration and anger if any of these state operated, publicly funded job boards actually attracted any traffic or offered a viable alternative to the for-profit boards that offer job listings on the web, but luckily they do not. In this case, I am quite happy to report yet another example of government incompetence.
But why do states feel the need to be in this business? Most state boards I’ve seen do not charge for their listings, so they are not generating any revenue. In fact, they are simply undercutting and competing against the for-profit sites and publishers in their state that could be generating additional tax revenue and job growth. The states are not filling a need that isn’t already being met by other free and paid listing sites around the web. And they certainly are not improving on the service that those other service providers are delivering. No state operated, publicly funded job board I’ve seen offers anything unique in the way that they attempt to help employers and jobseekers. On the contrary, most state operated, publicly funded job boards are pretty mediocre, run-of-the-mill type sites and many are a complete disaster.
The obvious conclusion is that these state operated, publicly funded job boards are the result of a bunch of feckless politicians and clueless government bureaucrats who think that operating these sites is actually a good use of taxpayer dollars. I have been told that Minnesota is investing $20 million into its job board – a complete and utter waste of money. This boondoggle is especially atrocious when one considers all the things the state should be doing that it currently isn’t. And once a government program is created and funded, entrenched bureaucrats will see to it that it’s never eliminated or shrunk, no matter how ineffective or counter-productive it might be.
The other likely, more cynical possibility is that state operated, publicly funded job boards offer politicians and bureaucrats something tangible to point to when asked what they are doing to create jobs and help local businesses in their states. Of course, pointing to these boards is a complete joke, but that’s never stopped a politician’s propensity to spin, especially around something as challenging as creating jobs and building a healthy, supportive environment for business.
My recommendation for Minnesota (which applies to other states as well) is to cut the investment in their state operated, publicly financed job board by $15 million and either return the money to taxpayers, or reallocate it to something that is actually going to generate a positive ROI for the state and its citizens. With the remaining $5 million, the state should evaluate and partner with a handful of talented, intelligent, knowledgeable stakeholders in the space from the private sector. Iideally, these partners would be located in the state and would include both for-profit companies and non-profit organizations who work in the jobs and job training space. A thoughtful collaboration among qualified players in the space and a prudent investment of $5 million in those companies and organizations would, without question, result in a better, more comprehensive solution, a unique offering, or at least unique aspects integrated into the overall solution(s),and a service that would truly help jobseekers and employers alike.