I’ll admit it. It’s hard for me to grasp that we are heading for time in this country when there are more jobs than available workers. But from a number of projections and estimates — many included in our Corporate Voices research and studies — it’s a fact. And something that we need to start dealing with. It has important implications for education, business, young and mature workers and our country as a whole.
Yet I live in Ohio. We’ve lost thousands of high-paying management and manufacturing jobs in the last decade. And typical is the situation facing thousands of graduates of our colleges and universities here who have education degrees. Highly trained and highly qualified. But few teaching jobs in Ohio. So they are enthusiastically recruited by school systems out of state. At the same time, Ohio, particularly in the Northeast industrial part of the state, is attracting new jobs that require skilled workers. And as I understand it, some of these jobs even now go unfilled.
The contrast with other states, however, is jarring. Take Iowa as an example. A story printed May 31 in The New York Times — “As Job Surplus Grows in Iowa, Workers Are Calling the Shots” — provides an interesting case study of what we are likely to face throughout the country in the not-to-distant future. Here’s from the article:
As rising unemployment and layoffs beset workers around the country, Iowa faces a different problem: a surplus of jobs. Or to put it another way: a shortage of workers. A survey of companies by Iowa Workforce Development, a state agency, found as many as 48,000 job vacancies, in industries including financial services — Des Moines trails only Hartford as the nation’s insurance capital — health care and skilled manufacturing. One estimate projects the job surplus to reach 198,000 by 2014, with vacancies increasingly in professional positions. Greater Des Moines alone faces a shortfall of 60,000 workers in the next decade.
The state provides a small, advance view of what some economists predict will be a broader shortage of skilled workers in the next 20 or 30 years, as tens of millions of baby boomers retire from the workplace, and the economy produces more new jobs than workers. Potential consequences include slower economic growth and competitiveness, as well as higher wages for skilled workers and greater inequality.
Estimates of the national shortage run as high as 14 million skilled workers by 2020, according to widely cited projections by the labor economists Anthony P. Carnevale and Donna M. Desrochers.
Elyse Rosenblum, who manages workforce readiness projects for Corporate Voices, is putting the final touches on a white paper and other material that examines this important issue. We’ll distribute that information soon.
And the next time I talk to Elyse I’ll ask her what’s going to happen in Ohio. That will be interesting.