NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Which Industries Are Expecting Labor Shortages?

September 22, 2014

The world's advanced economies run a significant risk of labor shortages over the next eight years, says a new report by the Conference Board. Examining 464 occupations across 266 U.S. industries, as well as 40 professions in Europe, the report analyzes probable market-trends in many leading economies relative to declining working-age populations and the ongoing effects of the Great Recession.

The results, says Gad Levanon, Director of Macroeconomic Research and co-author of the report, are encouraging for workers but could paint a grim picture for employers. The most obvious stumbling block, looking forward, will be a company's ability to manage labor costs without skimping on labor quality.

According to the study, determining a country's short-term economic standing over the next eight years depends on current unemployment data and the estimated natural rate of unemployment. With this in mind:

  • Canada Germany, Japan and South Korea are no longer seeing any affects of the Great Recession.
  • By 2015, The United States and United Kingdom will likely fall below the natural rate of unemployment.
  • Australia, Sweden, Belgium and Denmark are expected to reverse the effects of the recession by 2017.
  • Greece, Spain, Italy, Portugal and France, who were most affected economies, will not reach natural rates of unemployment until after 2018.

Looking at existing labor-market tightness and future demographic developments, the study evaluates the probability of long-term labor shortages for countries in 2025.

  • Germany, Hungary, Poland, Austria, Slovakia and the Czech Republic face the highest labor shortage risks.
  • Because of minimal productivity growth and a working-age population in decline, Mediterranean countries are at a high risk.
  • Japan and other Asia-Pacific countries are currently experiencing tight labor markets.
  • The United States is at moderate risk due to working-age population growth and steady immigration.

So is there an upside to labor shortages? Peter Coy, writing for Bloomberg BusinessWeek, says yes. Of all the occupational concerns, STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) professions are not among them. Coy writes, "If you're an occupational therapist, podiatrist, or audiologist, getting a job in the next decade will be simplicity itself."

Source: Peter Coy, "Do You Really Want to Pick That Major? A New Study Predicts Future Most-Wanted Jobs," Bloomberg Businessweek, September 2, 2014; "Growing Labor Shortages on the Horizon in Mature Economies," Press Release, Conference Board, September 2, 2014.


Browse more articles on Economic Issues