Tags: Conference Board | US | labor | shortages

Conference Board: US, Other Developed Nations to Face Labor Shortages

Tuesday, 02 Sep 2014 12:56 PM

By Dan Weil

Serious labor shortages loom for the next 15 years in the United States and other developed economies, according to a new study by The Conference Board.

Aging baby boomers will depart the workforce, helping to spark the imbalances, according to the report.

"Mature economies are facing a historical turning point: for the first time since World War II, working-age populations are declining," says Gad Levanon, director of macroeconomic research at The Conference Board and a co-author of the report.

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"The global financial crisis and its aftermath — stubbornly high unemployment in many countries — have postponed the onset of this demographic transformation, but will not prevent it from taking hold."

The study finds that in the United States, the labor shortage will center in three sectors:
  • Healthcare. An aging population will create demand for medical workers. But, "high education and experience requirements limit entry into the job market."
  • Skilled labor occupations that require more than a high school education, but not a bachelor's degree. Not many young people will enter these jobs, according to the report.
  • Science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). While there is a "relatively high number of young entrants compared to baby-boomer retirees, as well as the large proportion of new immigrants in STEM jobs," the report notes, "certain STEM fields — including mathematical science, information security, and civil, environmental, biomedical, and agricultural engineering — do face significant shortages."
"European occupational and industry data reveal a similar profile of risks, with social services, health professions and medium-skilled trade occupations facing impending labor shortages," explains Bert Colijn, senior economist of Europe at The Board and a co-author of the report.

For the short term, many economists have turned optimistic on the job market, as non-farm payrolls have gained more than 200,000 in each of the six months through July. That's the longest such streak since 1997.

Employment "does look to be on a healthy growth track right now," Princeton University economist Alan Blinder tells Bloomberg. "It means less social distress from unemployment. Secondly, it means more spendable income for the U.S. workforce."

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