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Outlook: More Jobs, Not Enough Workers

It may be hard to find a bright spot for battered and beleaguered workers in today’s job market, but if you can look beyond current woes, you may see rays of light in  the not-so-distant future.


According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of available jobs is projected to increase by more than 22 million jobs by 2010, a 15.2 percent increase- a reasonable, possibly even conservative, estimate considering employment increased 17% between 1990 and 2000.  The civilian labor force is projected to increase by 17 million people by 2010.  This suggest we’ll be  about 5 million workers short of keeping up with job growth over the next 10 years.


Where’s the Evidence?


Demographics are driving these shortage predictions.  Baby Boomers, who constitute a big slice of the labor force pie, are getting closer and closer to checking out of the office and into retirement, creating a major void in the   workforce.


The stats point to an impending shortfall in skilled workers. There are certain things that one knows about the economy.     You know that the economy has grown at about 4% since 1948.  That trend line says certain things in terms of demand for people.  You at to that how many people are born and we know what mortality rates are, so we have a very good  idea what labor supply is.  We know what typical retirement ages are.  We can make certain judgments on what Baby Boomers are likely to do—when they’re going to retire,  how many will continue to work part-time and how many will be out of the labor force all together.  And you build in immigration.”


What Does This Mean for You?


If the predictions of an acute labor shortage are true, it could wreak havoc for corporate America, but “it’s great news for employees,” declares Roger Herman, author of Impending Crisis: Too Many Jobs, Too Few People.  “There’s a severe labor shortage coming, and most executives don’t have a clue about what’s going to happen…Employers are going to be forced into offering stronger compensation packages, and not just money – more flexibility, better benefit plans, a lot of different kinds of things to entice people.” 


Make the Most of It


Herman offers this advice for career-minded people who hope to capitalize on the shortage:  “Build your skills.  Now is the time to be taking some courses, reading some books, listening to tapes, and getting some other kinds of   experience to build your skills to become more marketable.  They key for people is to be ready so they can sell themselves as the kind of employees these companies want.”


There’s lots of opportunity out there.  It’s just that people can’t get locked into the mentality that the job I was doing last year is the job I’ll be doing next year, whether it’s with the same employer or with another employer.  People have to be adaptive.