Labor Shortage Debate

September 21, 2018 • Volume 28, Issue 33
Does the country need more workers?
By Patrick Marshall


Vineyard workers harvest grapes (Cover: Getty Images/George Rose)
Vineyard workers harvest grapes on Sept. 5, 2018, near Santa Maria, Calif. Farmers say the Trump administration's moves to reduce immigration have made it harder to find workers to fill seasonal jobs. (Cover: Getty Images/George Rose)

The improving economy has brought unemployment to an 18-year low, leading to what many experts say is a nationwide labor shortage that could hamper economic growth. Manufacturers, truckers, construction companies, retailers and other businesses say demand for skilled workers now exceeds supply. Adding pressure is an ongoing wave of Baby Boomer retirements that is leaving many jobs unfilled. But some economists contend the labor supply is more than adequate to meet demand. Unemployment figures do not count people who have stopped looking for work but still want a job, they note. Moreover, they argue that stagnant wage growth suggests most employers see little reason to raise pay to attract workers. Still, many employers are struggling to fill open positions, and some are resorting to creative ways, such as student-loan reimbursement, to recruit help. Meanwhile, the Trump administration's efforts to curb immigration have led to concerns that some industries, including agriculture, could have trouble filling jobs that few Americans have shown they want.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Jobs and Skills
Feb. 04, 2022  The New Labor Market
Sep. 17, 2021  Career Change
Aug. 28, 2020  The Nature of Work
Sep. 21, 2018  Labor Shortage Debate
Mar. 30, 2018  U.S. Trade Policy
Oct. 04, 2013  Worker Safety
Mar. 02, 2012  Attracting Jobs
Jul. 22, 2011  Reviving Manufacturing
Jun. 04, 2010  Jobs Outlook
Feb. 20, 2004  Exporting Jobs
Jan. 11, 2002  Future Job Market
Apr. 24, 1998  High-Tech Labor Shortage
Oct. 24, 1997  Contingent Work Force
Feb. 28, 1992  Jobs in the '90s
Jun. 27, 1986  America's Service Economy
Jul. 22, 1983  Technology and Employment
Dec. 10, 1969  Jobs for the Future
Jun. 21, 1967  World Competition for Skilled Labor
Sep. 03, 1965  Shortage of Skills
Oct. 31, 1962  Retraining for New Jobs
Nov. 28, 1956  Shortage of Critical Skills
Congress Actions
Data and Statistics
Economic Crises
Employee Benefits
General Employment and Labor
General Social Trends
Immigration and Naturalization
Labor Standards and Practices
Manufacturing and Industrial Production
Outsourcing and Immigration
Party Politics
Party Politics
Powers and History of the Presidency
Regulation and Deregulation
Retail Trade
Small Business
Unemployment and Employment Programs
Vocational and Adult Education