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Missing Piece of the Puzzle: New Workers

Excerpts from an Atlanta Journal & Constitution article written by: Teresa M. McAleavy

Some folks who decipher economic trends say the current jobless recovery will probably be replaced by hefty labor shortages within the next 10 years. Hard to believe?

But, some soothsayers believe a few economic stars will align to create actual labor shortages similar to those in the late 1990’s when many workers demanded, and received, higher wages and more perks.

The argument centers on a potential mass exodus of baby boomers from the work force, leaving holes that the younger generation simply can’t fill. The oldest baby boomers will be 64 in 2010, and the generation following them is much smaller.

“The baby boomers swelled into schools back in the 1960’s and swelled into the work force in the 1970’s,” said Ken Goldstein, an economist with the Conference Board in New York.

“Over the next decade, they’re going to swell into the AARP group, into retirement, and that’s going to have a big impact on the work force.”

Goldstein said every downturn will be followed by an upturn, and he believes the gross domestic product will grow by an average of 4% in coming years. By his estimates, growth of 3.5% will increase the demand for employees as baby boomers retire.

“The number of jobs will be increasing faster than the number of people in the working-age population,” Goldstein said of workers ages 16 to 64.

Census Bureau estimates show the number of people 65 and older is expected to increase 26% between 2005 and 2015, while the population of 40 to 54 year olds will decrease by 5%. As for 25 to 39 year olds, their ranks will grow by 6% in that 10-year period.