As Economy Improves, Labor Shortages Threaten

Midland, Texas oil boom photo taken by Dave Fehling
While much of the country is still struggling with higher-than-normal unemployment, some key sectors are facing the opposite problem — labor shortages.

Employers are already having trouble finding workers in fields ranging from agriculture to high technology. John Challenger, CEO of global outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, says it’ll be at least another five years before shortages become widespread. But he says they’re on the way.

“In March, there were 33 metro areas with unemployment rates under 5%, that’s at least full employment.”

Increasing numbers of workers are feeling confident enough about the economy to quit their jobs and look for work elsewhere. Challenger says the quit rate is now more than 2 million per month.

“Not only is it becoming more difficult for employers who are looking to find the right people for the high number of job openings, but numbers like these also reveal that employers are having a harder time hanging onto the employees that they have.”

West Texas is home to the nation’s tightest labor market. The high demand for oil and construction workers has pushed Midland’s unemployment rate down to barely 3%.

Bio photo of Andrew Schneider

Andrew Schneider

Business Reporter

Andrew Schneider joined KUHF in January 2011, after more than a decade as a print reporter for The Kiplinger Letter...