This Week's Herman Trend Alert

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  The Herman Trend Alert

October 2, 2002

Impending Labor Crisis

During the go-go years of the late 1990s, there were many more jobs than people to fill them. Employers were forced into aggressive recruiting in a highly competitive labor market. Workers had many alternatives; they could choose their employers. It was clearly a seller's market for labor.

When the economy slowed, employers cut costs by reducing payroll. Thousands of workers lost their jobs as companies downsized to respond to the drop in demand for their products and services. Workers who were accustomed to the freedom to change jobs for better opportunities found themselves trapped. As a result, they are cocooning, waiting for the economy to grow and new jobs to open.

"Warm chair attrition" is high. Many chairs are now warmed by people who have already moved psychologically. They just show up for work each day out of habit.

Employers have become complacent. With employee turnover so low because of the slow economy, many employers have reduced their efforts to make employees feel valued and appreciated.

All this serenity is about to change. As the economy improves, and the signs are there, more jobs will be created. Jobs that were closed during layoffs and downsizings will open again. Some employers have already started recruiting. As more positions become available, workers will start moving to new employers, leaving gaps that may be difficult to fill. In a relatively short time, many employers will experience serious and dangerous labor shortages.

U. S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projections report that by 2010 (just over seven years from now) we will have 167,754,000 skilled jobs to fill in the United States alone. Other studies from this well-respected government agency forecast that we will only have 157,721,000 people in the workforce in 2010 to fill those jobs. As we interpret these numbers, we're facing a shortage of 10,033,000 workers in about 2700 days. Assuming that five percent of the workforce (7,886,050) holds two jobs, we still have approximately 2,146,950 jobs unfilled. Click here to see the chart.

The shortage of qualified workers is already being felt by employers. It will be more intense by early 2003.


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