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Conference Board Surprise: The US Is on the Cusp of Worker Shortages

Thursday, 04 Sep 2014 10:10 AM

By John Morgan

 

It may not seem possible after years of job shortfalls, but The Conference Board projects a lack of American workers in some job categories within 15 years.

 

The non-profit research group predicts the retirement of baby boomers will create a shortage of skilled workers, leading to higher wages and lower profits for the next decade and a half.

 

"First of all, it's not happening right now, but the unemployment rate in the United States is likely to reach its natural rate within a year," Gad Levanon, one of the authors of the report and the director of macroeconomic and labor market research at The Conference Board, told Yahoo.

 

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"So I think in the next year or two we'll start seeing wages pressures in the U.S. that will last for a very long time.

 

And this, in turn, is likely to put pressure on corporate profits.

 

The study examined labor shortages in 464 occupations and it projects shortfalls in a long list of categories during the next 15 years.

 

Levanon said some of the more prominent job opportunities would come in health careers, notably in openings for occupational and physical therapists, because of the aging baby boomer population.

 

He said some other shortages would occur for religious workers, transportation workers, utility and human services workers and construction and building inspectors.

 

Contrary to some other labor expert predictions, The Conference Board found that STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) jobs will not face significant labor shortages because of a large portion of immigrants entering STEM positions and a higher number of young workers targeting those fields.

 

There are also other reasons why a shortage of STEM jobs is not expected to materialize as widely expected, Bloomberg Businessweek reported.

 

"A relatively small portion of today's STEM workers are aging baby boomers, so there won't be a wave of retirements in the next decade or so," Businessweek said in its analysis of the report.

 

"And advances in technology keep increasing the productivity of STEM workers, so more work can be done by the same number of people."

 

According to The Conference Board, unemployment has already fallen below its "natural" rate in Canada, Germany, Japan and South Korea. The natural rate is the lowest level that unemployment can hit before inflationary wage increases occur.

 

In the United States, the Federal Reserve estimates the natural rate is somewhere between 5 percent and 6 percent. The official jobless rate in the U.S. in July was 6.2 percent, according to Bloomberg Businessweek.

 

According to economist Stephen Moore of The Heritage Foundation, a worker shortage is already being felt in the United States in some job categories.

 

"That actually surprises a lot of people because we have 18 million unemployed Americans," he told One News Now.

 

"One of the big problems is that a lot of [them] don't have the skills to fill these jobs. If you look at manufacturing, there are, by some estimates, a half a million manufacturing jobs that require skills. There are 50,000 to 100,000 unfilled trucking jobs, and a couple hundred thousand engineering jobs."

 

 

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