That expense makes the program "a risk, but we think it's one worth taking," said Badi G. Foster, president of the Aetna Institute for Corporate Education. "From everthing we see, the shortage is going to get worse."
The Travelers Companies, another of Hartford's major insurance and financial services firms, has begun paying cash awards of up to $3,000 to employees who bring new employees to the corporation. To fill many temporary clerical, secretarial and data-processing jobs, the company is also relying on a 700-person "retiree job bank" made up of former Travelers employees.
Also to help ease the crisis, the company has begun experimenting with "telecommuters" who punch data into the company's computer system from home.
Other businesses have had a harder time coping. Lieblich, of Norrell Temporary Services, said he has been unable to fill many jobs that pay nearly twice the minimum wage and require no skill. Among them are jobs for proofreaders and collators that offer $6 an hour.
In 1982 Lieblich spent $600 to buy a newspaper ad for salaried sales jobs, and got 150 resumes and another 50 telephone responses. He took out an ad for similar jobs recently "and I got five or six responses," he said. "It's incredible."
Classifieds Still Popular
Despite such experiences, employers continue to turn to help-wanted advertising in their hungry pursuit of workers--a key reason classified sections of newspapers have swelled throughout the Northeast.
In what has been an indifferent year for such advertising elsewhere, the Boston Globe's classified ad lineage was up 16.5% through October, while the Hartford Courant's rose 11% and classified lineage at Newsday, the New York area newspaper, increased 14%.
As they worry about the present, the Northeast's employers look warily at another trend. Over the next 10 years, the number of young people entering the job market is expected to decline steadily throughout the country.
Labor-market specialists note that New England enjoyed a net immigration of 4,600 workers in 1984 and 1985, the first such net gain in decades. But most hold out little chance of a reversal in the historical pattern of emigration.
New England's appeal to job-seekers has not been helped by a run-up in housing prices that has recently made Boston homes among the most expensive in the nation. The median price for a single-family home in the Boston area had climbed to $156,000 by the middle of this year, from $82,600 in mid-1983.
Immigration Held Unlikely
Some experts are skeptical that job-seekers could ever begin moving to New England in large numbers, as they have to such states as Florida, Texas and California.
"There's a calculation people make on a decision to move that takes into account cost of living, climate, job opportunities and other factors," said George Masnick, researcher with the Harvard-MIT Joint Housing Project. "For most people, New England just isn't someplace they'd consider."
In 1984 and 1985, there was a net migration of a piddling 233 people from Texas to Massachusetts--though Texas was sinking into an oil recession and Massachusetts' high-technology and service industries were exploding.
"Given the situation, there should have been a lot more than that," Masnick said.