Ghost Jobs: An Economic Illusion That Harms the Unemployed

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Are you trying to better yourself by finding a new job?  We keep hearing about record-low unemployment. This would make one think that there are job openings all over the place.  Have you been diligently looking through online job postings and filling out applications, only to hear nothing?  You might be chasing after ghost jobs.

“Ghost job” refers to online job postings that are seemingly never filled.  

Why on earth would companies do this?  Why let people chase jobs that don’t exist?

A closer look at ghost jobs

Let’s look at why so many ghost jobs are out there, why mainstream media is reporting on the economy in the way it is, and what steps individual job-seekers can take.

Clarify Capital conducted a survey of 1045 managers involved in hiring between August 31 and September 1, 2022.  They asked managers why they left job postings online even though they were not actively trying to fill those positions.  The answers?

  • 50% reported that the company is always open to new people.
  • 43% wanted to keep employees motivated
  • 43% to give the impression that company is growing
  • 39% the job was filled
  • 37% to keep an active pool of active applicants in case of turnover
  • 35% in case an irresistible candidate applies
  • 34% to placate overworked employees
  • 27% forgot to delete the job
  • 33% no reason in particular

Disorganization within large companies can lead to incorrect job postings as well, according to a March 20, 2023, article in the Wall Street Journal.  Many large companies have been going through rounds of layoffs and restructuring, and departments may post job openings redundantly or for jobs that haven’t been approved at other levels within the company.

This sounds like a fairly toxic situation between employers, employees, and potential employees.  If our unemployment rate is so low, we shouldn’t have so many people in employment limbo. 

What’s actually going on here?

As explained by Heresy Financial, there are two sets of data used to calculate employment rates, the establishment survey and the household survey.  

According to the establishment survey, the current unemployment rate is 3.4%, the lowest in history since 1969.  This is calculated by asking companies how many employees they have.  The big gap in establishment survey data is that it does not account for people working multiple jobs.  If one person is working days at McDonald’s and nights at an Amazon warehouse, two separate jobs are considered filled, even though one person is filling both.

Household surveys are conducted by asking individuals where they work.  This is more accurate in that it accounts for people working multiple jobs, which is common at the lower end of the socioeconomic spectrum.  When you consider how many people work multiple jobs, it reveals a more accurate picture of how many people are not actually working at all.

Once seen as a fool-proof field, tech companies have been making large rounds of layoffs. Looking at skilled vs. unskilled jobs in the Heresy Financial video, we see that the jobs most in demand are the ones that do not require a college degree.  Those with a college degree, expecting a more highly skilled job, are finding fewer job opportunities.

Nobody wants to admit they’ve ruined the economy.

I’ve got a bunch of teenagers at home.  They’re still being told that college is the way forward in life, but this does not seem as true as it was 30 years ago.  Why the deception?  Why would mainstream media push the narrative that the economy is booming and that if you just go to college, you’ll find a good job?

First of all, no politicians want to admit they’ve ruined the economy.  Much as I’d like to blame Biden for everything, fudging jobs data to make it look like a higher percentage of the population is employed has been going on for a while.  This isn’t partisan. It’s just politicians being politicians.

More significantly, the U.S. has held status as the world’s reserve currency for almost eighty years now.  This comes with all kinds of advantages, such as ease in foreign transactions and the ability to impose punishing sanctions.  

However, this reserve currency status has been based on a level of trust with the rest of the world. Everyone agrees to accept our money largely because, particularly after World War II, we had such a stable, transparent economy compared to almost everyone else.  Politicians know that a lot of perks come with being the biggest and wealthiest, and they want to continue to present America to the world in that way.

There there’s the AI effect.

Perhaps most significantly, the emerging use of AI has brought a great deal of chaos and uncertainty to the job market.  It’s highly likely that politicians and large employers alike would prefer to keep quiet about how much disruption will occur due to this new technology.

Many companies now use AI to process job applications. (We told you it was going to be everywhere.)  Large companies routinely use AI to filter applicants, even though algorithms are known to filter out qualified employees.  Despite known issues, AI is so much cheaper this problem will not go away any time soon.

Worse, the advent of AI has made companies unwilling to invest in new employees if they think they will be able to buy software soon that will be able to perform the same function.

This is not widely discussed due to fears of social disruption.  You may not remember learning about the Luddites in history, but I can guarantee you the people in charge do.

The Luddites were a group led by Ned Ludd, a displaced artisanal weaver, back in the nineteenth century at the beginning of industrial cloth production.  Ned Ludd led other displaced workers on a rampage of property destruction throughout England before being brutally suppressed. (source)

“Luddite” now is a term used to throw at anyone deemed anti-technology, but the Luddites weren’t anti-technology.  They were angry at the total change in lifestyle they knew they faced at the dawn of the Industrial Revolution, and they tried to do something about it.

Needless to say, it didn’t work. I don’t think smashing computers will solve our problems.

What can we do about ghost jobs?

But what can we do?  Are there still real jobs out there?  How can we avoid wasting our time with ghost job postings?

  • Look at how long a potential job has been open.  If it’s been more than a month, be suspicious.  Also, look for how detailed the job responsibilities are.  The more specific the company’s needs are, the more likely it’s a legitimate job. (source) 
  • Apply for jobs on the company’s website, rather than through a site like LinkedIn or Indeed. (source)
  • If no company contact information is listed, that’s a bad sign.  Same goes for poor grammar and spelling.  Also, if you spot a company that looks interesting, do an internet search.  If you can’t find much information about the company, avoid it.  Don’t ever give out money or a social security number before an actual hire.  And if the potential job sounds too good to be true, it probably is. (source)
  • To avoid getting filtered out by AI algorithms, bear in mind that very tiny things will likely put you out of the hiring pool.  Do not go over word limits; be meticulous in your grammar and spelling.  While human eyes may see through minor mistakes in the case of an outstanding applicant, an algorithm won’t.

And it’s okay to send out emails checking on the status of a job within a month of sending in an application.  If you’re afraid you’ve missed a call or deleted an email from a potential employer, reach out.  At least the potential employer will know that you really want the job. 

Personally, I have heard complaints from both ends.  I know young people can’t find jobs. I can also think of three friends off the top of my head, actively trying to hire, that cannot fill positions.  Two of those jobs are very physically demanding, but they’re still jobs.

The job market is a mess, and nothing is as it seems.

There is a huge amount of turmoil in the labor market right now.  Deception abounds as to what career path is most promising.  We have a serious mismatch between what kinds of jobs we think are available and what jobs really are.  Ghost job postings are not helping anything. Neither will nagging or blaming other individuals in your life.

Encourage the job-seekers in your life to keep trying.  Maybe watch some videos together about ways to improve their resumes.  Or have conversations about broadening what kind of work you’re willing to consider or where you’d be willing to live.  Job markets can vary dramatically from one part of the country to another.

Hang in there!

Don’t give up.  Ghost jobs are making life difficult right now, but if you feel like you’ve fallen for a trick, don’t take it personally.  If you have been frustrated by this situation, realize you are not alone.  Ghost jobs are a real phenomenon. If the Wall Street Journal is criticizing employers, you know something’s up.  

And if you know someone who is searching for a job, consider this information before you tell them that they simply aren’t trying hard enough.

Hopefully, you’ve gotten some food for thought about how to filter your own searches a little bit so that you can avoid wasting your time with ghost jobs in the future.  

Have you had any experience with ghost jobs as either a job seeker or someone whose company posts such listings? What is it all about in your situation? Did you know about this phenomenon? How do you feel about the smoke and mirrors afflicting job listings? Let’s talk about it in the comments.

About Marie Hawthorne

A lover of novels and cultivator of superb apple pie recipes, Marie spends her free time writing about the world around her.

Daisy Luther

Daisy Luther

Daisy Luther is a coffee-swigging, globe-trotting blogger. She is the founder and publisher of three websites.  1) The Organic Prepper, which is about current events, preparedness, self-reliance, and the pursuit of liberty on her website, 2)  The Frugalite, a website with thrifty tips and solutions to help people get a handle on their personal finances without feeling deprived, and 3), an aggregate site where you can find links to all the most important news for those who wish to be prepared. She is widely republished across alternative media and  Daisy is the best-selling author of 5 traditionally published books and runs a small digital publishing company with PDF guides, printables, and courses. You can find her on FacebookPinterest, Gab, MeWe, Parler, Instagram, and Twitter.

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  • I got fired from my job last October 2022, with no warning, because of a felony from 32 years ago that the company dug up when trying to get rid of conservatives, had to to fight for my unemployment (am in Texas, so texas uib sided with me and not only did I get my unemployment but got severance package from company) and have been applying for jobs ever since.
    These ghost jobs are very frustrating and I’ve encountered thousands. Do not use Glassdoor , LinkedIn, and even Indeed is sketchy now. I’ve been going to different companies websites this last month and got 3 interviews, of which I was FINALLY hired at 1 as heavy equipment operator. (I used to do finance and securities trades) so this is a big step for me to do a career change midlife, I’m in my early 50’s.
    These cush remote jobs are now non existent and the few ones that are legit and out there are only hiring the blue haired alphabet people under age 25.
    My 68 year old husband had to come out of retirement and get a part time job at home depot.
    I would say go to actual companies websites and look for job openings.

    And then as far as college, I have a worthless $50k piece of paper now that I’m having a bonfire with this weekend. And am trying to dissuade my 22 year old son from wasting $200k on art school. He is not listening to me, has already been indoctrinated and I am refusing to pay for this art school with parent plus loans. He refuses to do honorable job like electrician or plumber so I’m gonna let life teach him.
    This world is getting more insane by the day. Pray and prepare is all I can say.

    • Oh no! I’m so very sorry to hear that. It’s so wrong but I’m very glad you were able to get severance and unemployment.

      One of my daughters is job-searching right now and despite having years of experience, a trade school diploma, and being very qualified for several different jobs, she too has run into hundreds if not thousands of these jobs. It was actually her experience that inspired us to look into this issue.

      It sounds like you’re an awesome mom, even if your son doesn’t think so right now. Later, I assure you, he will. That’s how it goes with kiddos. As they get older, we get smarter 🙂

      • Thanks Daisy. It’s hard with everyone right now and because we’re rural, well we were rural but now comal county is fastest growing county not only in texas but the USA, there are 10’s of thousands of folks all bying for same positions. I ended up getting another remote position, but I’ll be looking again in November as that’s when contract runs out. We just got over covid (caught it at orlando airport) is why I didn’t reply earlier.
        Thanks for all you do Daisy.

  • The military is always hiring. ?

    Our oldest got an accelerated nursing degree with a mere 5k in debt but we told our other 4 we weren’t paying for college. This was before we even knew how fubar the system was.

    One military child will be earning a high wage post exit and the other military kids are earning certificates and degrees while serving. It’s not free but at a severely reduced cost. Not sure I’d trade my life for education but so far it’s working.

    • “Not sure I’d trade my life for education but so far it’s working.” For one, you are right about having to trade life for education being questionable (and I would hope that you did MENTION that when your child made that choice) but I would add having to trade “life AND values” for an education since joining the US military (or any military) is about joining one of the most corrupt and deceptive organizations on the planet since it’s all about giving up the lives of its “employees” at the bidding of political wars when necessary. But I digress…

      Second, all those certificates and degrees gained through the military don’t make a bit of difference relative to the topic of the article because a “ghost job” is a job that doesn’t exist so an education or even experience doesn’t matter. So what are you really gaining?

      • Wow, you must be new. If you knew me I’m a bit of a smart Alec. My comment was towards Texas Antigone who was trying to prevent her son going into strangling debt. That was what I was referring to.

        I was stating that a successful life can be achieved without formal college debted education. Both my husband & I are in our late 50s and haven’t completed college but have worked our asses off (I’ve been self employed for 24 years and he just escaped ? from a corporate woke big company after 27 years).

        To imply that all military is corrupt is both rude, insensitive and misinformed. Some, like Healthcare, Dr’s, teachers, etc) go into the field with good intentions only to find out otherwise. Are my 3 kids all happy with what they’re seeing? No, definitely not. Were they aware of their choices, yes.

        Not sure how you feel but I’m grateful brave men and women have been willing to die for our rights to say whatever we want (for now at least). It’s always comments like yours that imply we don’t need anyone willing to die to defend our freedoms.

        I hope Leanne you’ve deeply researched whatever company you work for or purchase stuff from to know we all weigh the good VS bad in all areas.

        Careful, that fall from that high horse will hurt.

    • I know of two young men that were trying to get into the military this past year. The recruiters simply don’t seem to be interested. My guess is that the two potential recruits don’t check the diversity boxes.

  • When it comes to the numbers, remember the wisdom of Mark Twain: there are lies, damned lies, and statistics. How things are counted matters. Unemployment statistics are often counted by looking at new UEI claims. That doesn’t include those who have stopped looking for work, those who have exhausted their claims period, or the homeless. Therefore I’m deeply suspicious of statistics, especially when it’s in someone powerful’s interests to lie.

  • Well, I knew it! Thank you for giving a name to the online job seeker anomaly I have come up against while looking for remote work. However, the situation is far worse than anyone can imagine. It’s not a matter of companies simply forgetting to remove an ad or leaving it up in hopes a better candidate shows up, as “Clarify Capital” would like us to believe. I am 100% sure that the majority of companies claiming to need employees right now on (the biggest culprit of this deception) and other similar sites DO NOT EXIST AT ALL.

    I am more than qualified for a number of admin related remote positions posted online and as a self-published author & freelance writer for nearly 20 years, I could easily fill any one of the literally 1000’s of positions posted on any given day for copywriter/editor on Indeed. Thank God I was only seeking some part-time cash and never felt desperate. That said, I became very curious as to why I couldn’t catch a bite so I went back to take a good look at ALL the ads on Indeed and this is what I found to be the two BIGGEST CLUES to uncovering a TRUE ghost ad (meaning that it is BOGUS, plain & simple):

    1) the names of the MAJORITY of the companies posting ads are RIDICULOUS and couldn’t possibly be real (examples: Migley, Inc., Lala, Inc., Safer Ro, Inc., Migtown Willie, AAJAC, Inc. and it goes on and on). At second glance, these names are CLEARLY being AI-generated specifically to post these bogus ads.

    2) the language of the job descriptions are nearly identical with just the right amount of change made to the wording and format so that each ad appears to be slightly different than the previous 1000. This, of course, is a popular and must-have feature offered by all AI software programs that promise to create unlimited content with no duplication.

    So, “Clarify Capital”, in a supposed attempt to explain the “ghost ad”, comes up with the “results” of a “survey” intended to get to the bottom of it. Well, at closer look, even the reasons given by the supposed “companies” surveyed are suspect! I’ve worked in many an HR department in my time and when the position is filled, the ad comes down. Period. I’m not saying it doesn’t happen but certainly not enough to explain the 1000’s upon 1000’s of ghost ads currently posted. Sorry, but I’m not buying these nonsensical survey results AT ALL which makes me suspicious of “Clarify Capital” itself, a “company” that, in my mind, is likely some paid government lowlife sitting in a backroom cubical somewhere counteracting, by way of bogus survey results, the assigned evil doings of yet ANOTHER government employee whose sole job it is to place bogus (ghost) ads by ficticious companies all over the internet to make it look like there are plenty of jobs available when there CLEARLY IS NOT. Again, for a good example of this deception, simply look at the ridiculous names of the companies seeking copywriters, editors, writers, proofreaders, etc and the nearly identical wording of the literally 1000’s of ads posted. THEY DON’T EXIST.

    The “ghost ad’ is a phenomena that spawned from the COVID debacle. The resulting global mess of the plandemic is that there IS a shortage of jobs but, as the writer of the article stated, what corrupt politician would ever admit to that, especially when a job shortage and the eventual destruction of our way of life WAS THE DESIRED INTENTION of the plandemic to begin with? But I digress. The “ghost ad”, I must admit, is an ingenious method for skewing the numbers as was the creation of “surveys” perhaps to use in the counter attack when people begin to catch on.

    Which leads me to one more nefarious point…if the “ghost ad” is what I am 100% sure that it is, this would mean that there are facets of would-be reputable online companies such as Indeed, LinkedIn, Careerbuilder, and Monster, along with facets of the more obscure, fly-by-night “jobsites” like Jobcase that bog down jobeeker emails, THAT ARE IN ON THE DECEPTION. In my mind, Jobcase and other similar spammy sites, are run by yet another individual seated in that same government backroom three cubicles down. Moreover, they are all likely getting paid very well to what they do. There is NO WAY that an organization like Indeed and it’s counterpart Careebuilder do NOT know that these company names are fake and that the wording in all the ads are nearly the same ad to ad. No way.

    Again, I thank the writer for finally exposing the deceptive practice wasting the time of well-intentioned job seekers, like myself, who simply want to put extra bread on the table. I do believe that above all others, this could be the biggest conspiracy that is NOT just a theory taking place right against the unemployed average American citizen. It really is sickening but, alas, par for the course in this political upside clown world that we live in. And, unfortunately, what we allow, will continue, and allow it we do…day after day, ad after ad. God help us all.

  • To make ends meet while my business was imploding in 2020-2021, I worked two other jobs. So I’ve been scouring the want ads since the summer 2021 and told family, and friends (“why are you having such a time? There are jobs everywhere…”) the same jobs were being advertised over and over (some I had applied to but never heard back from). The ONLY ONE I actually got an interview from was where I reached out directly to the company owner to ask if the position was open. I’m a member of SHRM and on the private recruiter board they admitted they were told by TPTB to “leave them posted in case something better came along.”

  • My employer seems to be unable to hire people who want to work and keep the job once they find out what the job entails. I am looking to retire, but I’d rather not leave my fellow employees in a lurch without my position being filled. At 76, I hope they find someone soon. Last I checked, my employer’s website, a grocery business based in NC, had over 6,000 opening listed.

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