A few years back, we were stunned when we reported that as a result of McDonalds' first hiring day in 2011, the company retained the services of 62,000 very qualified line cooks and other minimum wage workers. What was stunning is that one million Americans applied for these jobs, or a 6.2% success rate, or just a fraction above the 5.8% admission rate at Harvard. Alas, as we speculated at the time, this was merely the first of many such indications of the historic mismatch between labor supply and demand, both domestically and globally. Sure enough, today we find an even more glaring example of just how unprecedented the New Normal demand for labor is in a world drowning with unemployment, courtesy of an NPR report according to which on Monday, Spain's Ikea's started taking applications for 400 jobs at a new megastore set to be opened near the Mediterranean coast town of Valencia.
As NPR says, "The company wasn't prepared for what came next. Within 48 hours, more than 20,000 people had applied online for those 400 jobs." An "acceptance rate" of 2%.
It gets better, as Spain experienced its own mini Obamacare debacle: the sheer volume of applicants promptly "crashed Ikea's computer servers in Spain."
"We had an avalanche of applicants!" Ikea spokesman Rodrigo Sanchez told NPR in a phone interview. "With that quantity, our servers just didn't have the capacity. They collapsed. After 48 hours, we had to temporarily close the job application process. We're working on a solution, to reopen the as soon as possible."
And since the analogies to Obamacare never end, one has no idea how many additional applicants would have tried to get a job had the servers continued to run:
... that's factoring in only the applicants in the first 48 hours, who managed to apply online before Ikea's servers crashed. Once Ikea gets its servers back up and running, the job application window will still stay open until Dec. 31, allowing potentially tens of thousands more job seekers to file applications, Sanchez said.
"I feel lucky to have a job. Ikea is a great company. In this case we have 20,000 initial people who want to work with us," he said. "But we know we're in this situation at least in part because of the state of the Spanish economy."
Why the deluge of applicants? Simple: Spain's record high unemployment rate of 26.7% is the second highest in the eurozone, matched only by Greece's 27.3%. What's worse: Spain's youth unemployment is also a record high 57.4%: nearly two out of every three people under 25 have no job. But that's ok: according to the Spanish prime minister, Spain's economy is growing and the recovery is so bright everyone's ECB rehypothecated shades will be made available shortly (together with the latest batch of Spiderman towels).
In the meantime, it is three times more difficult to get a minimum wage job at Ikea in Spain than it is to get into Harvard.