A new study finds that a significant labor gap between demand for workers with certain credentials and the number of people actually earning those credentials is set to widen dramatically across the United States. This gap isn’t caused by scarcity as defined in the physical world, where resources such as oil and water can never be replenished through production; rather, it stems from market phenomena like purposeful human intervention, which in this case translates to a mismatch between job demand and workforce training.
The research, from a firm that specializes in executive search and leadership consulting, estimates that based on current trends, nearly every state will see the gap between workers who have some form of post-secondary education and those jobs open to them grow by 2029. By the end of that decade, the demand for workers with an associate degree or higher is estimated to be 800,000 people greater than the supply—a number that could translate into as much as $1.2 trillion in lost economic output.
That’s a big gap, and it’s not just for tech jobs; it’s across sectors. As a result, some employers are starting to complain about a skilled labor shortage in applicant pools. Viewing the fact that some companies are having trouble finding workers to work for them as evidence of a long-lasting skilled labor gap or shortage, though, runs counter to decades of industry analysis, prevailing labor market models and the latest government data.
Moreover, while it’s true that some jobs will become obsolete due to advances in artificial intelligence and robotics, the broader issue is not so much that robots are taking our jobs as that there simply aren’t enough humans to do them all. In fact, according to a recent report from the global consulting firm Korn Ferry that includes a sweeping country-by-country analysis, by 2030 there will be a global talent shortage of 85 million people. That’s the equivalent of Germany’s population and, left unchecked, will cost businesses trillions in lost revenue.
Fortunately, the same research indicates that the most effective way to address this problem is through educational reform. Investing more in schooling at all levels—from pre-K to graduate degrees—should help to ensure that the right skills are available for the right kinds of jobs and that the economy can continue growing. With the right skills in place, people would be more likely to have jobs that match their interests and talents and are better equipped to take advantage of opportunities for advancement and career growth. Then, they would be in a better position to keep their families economically secure and happy. And that, in turn, will help reduce the risks of local economic hardships and national instability.