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26% OF JOB APPLICANTS LACK READING, MATH SKILLS

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Better than a quarter of U.S. job applicants tested for basic reading and math skills last year were lacking in those skills, the American Management Association says.

In a January survey of 1,633 companies, the business group determined that 26 percent of job applicants tested in reading and math proved deficient - the same percentage as in the association's previous annual survey.Worse, the deficiency rate among applicants tested only for reading skills came in at 36 percent, the survey said.

But the survey pointed to a growing awareness of the problem of job applicants lacking certain basic skills, with the number of companies that conduct tests of job applicants increasing to 38 percent in January from 33 percent in January 1990.

The association's report noted, however, companies' responses to the problem of skills deficiency "does not match the evident need" for remedial education."

The share of companies testing their current work forces for basic skills nearly doubled in 1990, to 21 percent from 11 percent. Some 4 percent of these companies dismiss employees found deficient in skills, while 43 percent offer remedial training.

Overall, remedial training programs are sponsored by 15.3 percent of the respondent firms, up from 13.7 percent in 1989.