Corporate Talent: Where the US Labor Market is Going
One of the important things senior business and HR leaders must consider is the availability of labor – that is not just “people” but “the right people.” Right now, with a 6.1% unemployment rate, the US labor market has undergone some major changes…. and such changes in the availability of work directly affect the skills and capabilities of people. For example, when I graduated from college in 1978, there was a dearth of engineers and a tremendous interest in energy (as there is now). So, I studied Mechanical Engineering. In the decades since, that particular area of study dropped out of favor – but now it’s back.
Consider the following changes which have happened in the last 9 months:
- The number of jobs in construction has dropped by 4.3% (323,000 jobs lost)
- The number of jobs in manufacturing has dropped by 2.7% (366,000 jobs lost)
- The number of jobs in natural resources/energy has increased by 8.6% (64,000 jobs gained)
- The number of jobs in education and health services has risen by 2.1% (394,000 jobs gained)
- The number of jobs in government has grown by 1.1% (254,000 jobs gained).
- Line Managers: 43% of organizations cite severe or major shortages
- Engineering / technical professionals: 42% of organizations cite severe or major shortages
- Skilled labor: 30% of organizations cite severe or major shortages
- Sales: 30% of organizations cite severe or major shortages
- Top executives: yes, believe it or not, 34% of organizations cite severe or major shortages.
- Network systems and data communications analysts – 53% increase
- Home health aids – 49% increase
- Software engineers and applications programmers – 45% increase
- Financial advisors (!!! really? yes) – 41% increase
- Medical assistants and nurses – 35% increase
- Substance abuse and other counselors – 34% increase (I wont even try to guess the reasons for this).
Bottom line is this: if your organization needs technical, managerial, or healthcare workers to grow, you should plan ahead. You are likely going to need to further invest in career development, tuition reimbursement, and increases in training in order to obtain the skills you need. Our research shows a fevered interest in complete career development programs among corporations – programs which help young workers build their skills in professional, technical, and service roles – not only leadership.
I personally believe that the next administration in Washington is going to wake up to these shifts in labor skills and availability and start a massive emphasis on technical, energy, and health training and education in the US. WIthout such a shift our businesses are going to be increasingly forced to invest in these skills internally. Either way, we have no choice but to watch these trends – it’s a critical part of our role as strategic talent managers in our organizations.