A labor shortage occurs when there are insufficient available workers in the labor market to meet the demand for employees. In the US alone, there are nearly 11 million job openings currently available throughout the country. Still, only 6.5 million workers are expected to be unemployed in 2022. This high number of job openings affects employers worldwide, not just in the US. Employers in Europe, for example, were struggling to fill more than 1.2 million open job roles as of early 2022, while employers in Australia were attempting to fill nearly 400,000 vacant positions. In addition, Singapore had 163 job openings for every 100 candidates in 2021.
According to a recent Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) report, the most difficult problem in filling open positions is “a low number of applicants”. According to SHRM, employers are having a more difficult time than ever before hiring qualified candidates. According to the study, 68% of HR professionals polled have had difficulty recruiting candidates for full-time positions. These findings are supported by data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). According to the BLS, as the unemployment rate has decreased, job openings have increased, resulting in massive talent shortages for businesses in various industries.
The last two years’ events have impacted businesses in nearly every industry, and many still feel the effects today. However, COVID-19 is only one of several global factors that have resulted in severe labor shortages in many sectors, along with changes in economic activity and an aging population. Economists investigated the global similarities and differences in labor markets in order to identify the cyclical and more fundamental causes of these shortages. The US noted that the economy has fully recovered all of the lost economic output caused by the pandemic. However, employment remains 5 million below the level of February 2020.
One possible explanation, according to economists, is that households have built up savings buffers and do not need to return to work, but the problem could be more structural. There will likely be a more permanent loss of workers due to many older workers retiring early. Many people find going back to work and the daily commute unpleasant. The increase in remote roles has also helped to fill this gap, so there are fewer people working in offices than just a few years ago. This post discusses some of the industries experiencing labor shortages this year. We will examine the reasons behind these shortages and conclude how we can eradicate these shortages.
The figures show a significant shortfall in the working population in the US. As a result, the demand for workers has risen, while the supply of workers has remained limited. This has resulted in fierce competition for employees in a labor market with a surplus of demand. But what are the sectors that have been hit the hardest?
Jobs that require in-person attendance and have traditionally paid lower wages have struggled to retain workers during the pandemic reshuffling. This was also a sector that was most hit by the pandemic and the ongoing closures it caused around the world. For example, the leisure and hospitality industry has had the highest quit rate, consistently exceeding 5.4%, since July 2021. The retail trade industry’s quit rate isn’t far behind, with rates hovering around 4% over the summer. At the same time, the rate of hiring has increased. In fact, since November 2020, leisure and hospitality have had the highest hiring rate of any sector, fluctuating between 7% and 9%.
Construction and manufacturing
One in every three vacancies in construction, manufacturing and engineering are now challenging to fill due to a shortage of skilled employees with the necessary qualifications or experience. This has been a growing issue. Even in 2018, nearly a third of leaders cited a skills shortage as the industry’s biggest challenge, with a quarter citing disruptive technologies as a significant issue. Manufacturing, in particular, is seeing an increase in demand for reskilling and upskilling programs that emphasize more digital skills, such as systems analysis and evaluation, technology design and programming. In a survey of 570 HR managers, 78% said that it was difficult to find qualified candidates in fields such as engineering, while 82% said that it was difficult to find skilled workers who had completed training.
As a result of the high demand for IT professionals, the technology industry is one of the most dynamic in the world. High-caliber technology specialists are increasingly in demand by new start-ups and SMEs and are needed to perform critical in-house functions for larger corporations. However, while the technology market thrives, there are significant sector-specific skills gaps. According to recent industry research, more than 70% of technology employers are experiencing skill shortages this year.
It’s hardly surprising that the healthcare industry has fared worse than many others in the last two years. Working close to sick patients increased the likelihood of many employees becoming ill and needing time off. As a result, many hospitals and healthcare facilities have been operating with fewer staff than usual for an extended period. This means that temporary workers transitioning into nursing are in high demand in the healthcare industry. Furthermore, many people in the healthcare industry are underpaid. The lack of support and adequate remuneration provided to workers in these roles, combined with the added pressures of working in short-staffed environments, is causing many employees to quit.
According to a World Travel & Tourism Council study, 250,000 workers in the sector will be absent this year, leaving one in every six vacancies unfilled. The hospitality and travel industries are among the hardest hit by employee shortages. However, there are ways to attract more employees. These include facilitating worker mobility through a more favorable visa policy; allowing for flexible and remote work; implementing innovative technological and digital solutions; and providing employees with training, refresher programs and benefits.
Contrary to popular belief, workers are not quitting their jobs for nothing. Instead, they are changing jobs – or even industries – in search of better pay, benefits and working conditions. They are leaving low-quality jobs that are detrimental to their physical and mental health and that do not pay enough to enable them to meet basic needs, build up some financial security, or even put away savings of their own.
According to the Institute for Employment Studies, labor shortages are primarily caused by an increase in the number of economically inactive people (not in work and not looking for work). They also reflect a drop in foreign workers due to the pandemic, as they have returned to their home countries. According to the Institute for Fiscal Studies, the increase in vacancies has “been entirely driven by low-paying occupations”, with low-pay packages contributing to high vacancies. Some argue that the solution to labor shortages lies in convincing the economically inactive to enter the labor force. Employers across industries need to find a way to make jobs more appealing through more inclusive recruitment, better working conditions, increased flexibility or higher pay.
The second course of action would be to invest in training and ensuring people’s employability throughout their careers. The private employment services industry has a long history of developing demand-driven, company-based or bipartite training programs that meet labor market demands. In addition, training funds developed collaboratively by social partners play an essential role in facilitating access to training in several European countries. Enabling faster and more resilient transitions through career support will also play a critical role in reducing labor shortages in a highly volatile and shifting world of work. Adopting a people-centered approach will allow for faster and more sustainable transitions. This approach has become synonymous with the career management industry.
Nurses, programmers, software development professionals, HR officers, medical practitioners, and welfare and housing associate professionals were the top five most difficult-to-fill positions. These are among the top 10 roles that new graduates hold, indicating that, even though thousands of graduates enter those jobs each year, employers still find it challenging to fill positions and that the supply and demand for graduates may not be as well matched as the economy requires. A third of employers cited a lack of work experience as the reason why they could not fill managerial and associate professional positions. So, opening up work experience opportunities is another approach that can be taken to rid these sectors of staff shortages.
The pandemic has highlighted the labor market’s vulnerabilities and the need for sustained investments in an appropriate policy mix to address labor shortages. While investment in skills is critical for inclusive and sustainable growth in the context of green and digital transitions, the examples above suggest that policies should also address broader issues such as job quality, migration and improved integration of groups currently excluded from the labor market.