Leading economist forecasts more jobs than workers in coming years

RP news wires
Tags: talent management, business management

As surprising as it sounds in the current employment market, a renowned labor economist projects that there will be more jobs than people to fill them in the United States by 2018.

Assuming a return to healthy economic growth and no change in immigration or labor force participation rates, Barry Bluestone, Dean of the School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs at Northeastern University, predicts that within the next eight years there could be at least 5 million potential job vacancies in the United States, nearly half of them (2.4 million) in social sector jobs in education, health care, government and nonprofit organizations. The loss in total output could limit the growth of needed services and cost the economy as much as $3 trillion over the five-year period beginning in 2018.

"If the Baby Boom generation retires from the labor force at the same rate and age as current older workers, the baby bust generation that follows will likely be too small to fill many of the projected new jobs," states Bluestone's report, After the Recovery: Help Needed – The Coming Labor Shortage and How People in Encore Careers Can Help Solve It.

Bluestone's research is one of four papers written by independent experts and released March 22 by MetLife Foundation and Civic Ventures, a think tank on boomers, work and social purpose.

All four papers, which can be found at www.encore.org/research, assert that engaging workers over 55 in encore careers will be vital to meeting work force shortages and critical social needs. In addition to the Bluestone research, the three companion papers, written by experts in their fields, examine how creative approaches to staffing can help meet pressing problems in education, health care and the green economy, now and in the future.

Bluestone's analysis builds on the 2008 MetLife Foundation/Civic Ventures Encore Career Survey conducted by Peter D. Hart and Associates, which shows that most people expect to work longer than previous generations, but that half of those aged 44 to 70 want encore careers that combine personal meaning, continued income and social impact. "Not only will there be jobs for these experienced workers to fill," Bluestone writes, "but the nation will absolutely need older workers to step up and take them."

Bluestone's paper – co-authored by Mark Melnik, deputy director for research at the Boston Redevelopment Authority – is based on official forecasts of population growth from the U.S. Census Bureau; forecasts of job growth and labor force participation from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics; and estimates of the number of jobs in specific occupations based on the Labor Market Assessment Tool developed by the Dukakis Center and the Boston Redevelopment Authority.

The research identifies 15 jobs that will provide the largest number of potential new encore career opportunities in the coming decade. The list is dominated by seven job categories in health care (registered nurses; home health aides; personal and home care aides; nursing aides, orderlies and attendants; medical assistants; licensed practical and vocational nurses; and medical and health service managers); three in education (teachers, teacher assistants and child care workers); others in nonprofits and government (business operations specialists; general and operations managers; and receptionists and information clerks); plus clergy and social and human service assistants.

The three papers suggest that those over the age of 55 have the skills and experience to help solve serious problems and to bridge critical labor gaps in education, health care and the green economy.

In How Boomers Can Help Improve Health Care: Emerging Encore Career Opportunities in Health Care, Partners in Care Foundation outlines new approaches to care and staffing that can help people stay healthier and lower costs. Their research identifies six emerging jobs for experienced workers that have the potential to improve health outcomes: community health workers; chronic illness coaches; medications coaches; patient advocates; home- and community-based service navigators/advocates; and home modification specialists.

In How Boomers Can Contribute to Student Success: Emerging Encore Career Opportunities in K-12 Education, the National Commission on Teaching and America's Future details how new, team-based approaches to school staffing could improve teacher retention, reduce turnover and increase student achievement. The organization's research identifies emerging jobs that will create learning teams in schools and offer promising opportunities to experienced workers: adjunct teachers, teacher coaches or mentors, content advisers, project coordinators, tutors and an assortment of other skilled jobs, from grant writer to community liaison.

In How Boomers Can Help the Nation Go Green: Emerging Encore Career Opportunities in the Green Economy, the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning reveals how talent and experience will be key to reversing decades of environmental damage and moving toward energy efficiency. Their research indicates that the green economy must tap existing talent to grow quickly and that certain emerging jobs offer promising opportunities to experienced workers: weatherization installers and crew leaders; energy auditors; solar contractors; solar installation trainers; outreach workers; and conservation and sustainability consultants and advocates.

"This research makes it clear that interest in encore careers can help solve long-standing social problems and an anticipated labor gap," said Dennis White, president and CEO of MetLife Foundation. "It's time to think creatively about how to encourage and make use of this growing source of human talent."