We’re right in the middle of a labor market paradox. There are 3.7 million job openings in the U.S. (which is equal to the population of Los Angeles), while 12.5 million people are looking for work (equal to LA and New York City combined). At the same time, according to the latest ManpowerGroup talent shortage survey, 49% of the employers we surveyed report moderate to severe shortages of available, qualified workers. That’s a 3 to 1 ratio of the unemployed-to-available-jobs, yet nearly half of employers are struggling to fill key positions.
Why are we seeing this contradiction? There is no one reason and the answer to that question is complex. I suggest that the major causes of this mismatch include (but are not limited to):
- Demographics. As the population goes, so goes the labor force. We’re all getting older and so is the workforce. The big baby boomer bubble of folks is approaching retirement – in fact each and every day, 10,000 baby boomers reach age 65. Baby boomers are leaving the workforce in huge numbers.
- Education. High school drop-out rates are high and these kids are not getting the education they need to succeed in the workplace. We could also argue that many post-secondary institutions are not teaching the skills appropriate for 21st century jobs. And, not enough students are choosing to go to career or technical institutions to learn trades, get certified or start apprenticeships.
- Technology. Technology is changing how we work so rapidly that if we aren’t keeping up with these changes, our skills become obsolete very quickly. And add those who have been unemployed for any length of time you can see why the skills of applicants may not match current job requirements.
- Soft skills. Many employers feel there is a lack of soft-skill ability in applicants – critical thinking, problem solving, communications, work ethic, etc. While many of the technical, job-related skills can be taught on the job, the ability to master the soft skills takes a bit more time and patience.
- Location. People may not be where the jobs are and for many reasons don’t have the ability to relocate.
While I certainly wish we could solve all these problems easily, that’s not possible (unless someone has a magic wand). Rather we have to work on it one problem at a time, one person at time, one employer at a time.
Tell me what you think about the talent shortage.