Skilled Worker Shortages Reach Widespread but Not Evenly Distributed

If the survey of economists in a recent Associated Press Economy Survey is correct, the job market will still be unhealthy seven years (2016) after the Great Recession officially ended in June 2009. That would be the longest stretch of high unemployment since the end of World War II.

The economists surveyed by the AP foresee an unemployment rate of 8 percent on Election Day. That would be the highest rate any postwar president running for re-election has faced. And regardless who wins the White House, they predict at least another four years of unemployment above 6 percent, the upper level of what is considered healthy.

But as I’ve stated dozens of times before, high unemployment rates seem to tell only one side of the job market story.  My inbox is full every day with stories and alerts about another industry or company struggling to find qualified skilled workers to fill open positions.  Here are a few examples:

5 Biggest Worker Shortages

Skilled Trades


IT Staffer

Accounting and Finance

Sales Representatives

Transportation  – A shortage of drivers for big rigs

Energy – Electric utility industry challenged by skilled worker shortage

             Robust shale drilling leads to shortage of employees

Technology – Computer firms to try to grow talent to handle mainframe worker shortage

Construction – Skilled worker shortage affecting construction industry

Health Care – Physical therapists are in demand, but not much interested

Education – School Districts Face High Student Enrollment, Employee Shortage

There are many reasons for the shortages of skilled workers.  Shifting demographics and the Great Recession certainly played a huge factor in bringing skilled worker shortages to the forefront. But neither event created the shortages…they just accelerated them.

Some people suggest that skilled worker shortages are merely the results of employers unwilling to pay for top talent. In other cases, qualified workers are available but unable to relocate due to “under-water” mortgages and family obligations.  But mostly, skilled worker shortages are an indication that work has undergone a structural change and the skills required to do them has changed significantly. The list of shortages goes on and on. 

For the next several years I see the paradox of high unemployment verses skilled worker shortages not only continuing but getting worse.  The media will report the desperation of highly educated workers who can find jobs as well as high growth companies struggling to meet capacity due to a lack of skilled employees. Unemployment and worker shortages are not uniformly distributed by geography, demographics, education, gender, or age. It would be foolish for any employer to follow only one side of the story and plan accordingly.  The reality is that both stories are true and that workforce development, recruiting, and retention planning must consider conditions that includes high unemployment with significant skilled worker shortages.








Ira S Wolfe


  1. […] required by job openings posted online. (I referred to education yesterday in my post as one of the factors for the wide variation of skilled worker shortages from region to […]