A common narrative about the United States’ massive worker shortage is that people don’t want to work, so they’re vanishing from the workforce. In 2021, over 47 million workers quit, and in 2022, 38 million more workers left their jobs. Is this just because everyone is tired, lazy, and totally over it?
Surprisingly, according to Barron’s, the size of the United States workforce is already larger than it was pre-Covid; however, the economy has grown much faster than the size of the workforce. Thus, the labor force has not exactly shrunk, but its growth has slowed relative to demand. Barron’s cites many factors in this changing labor force, including the increased ability of workers to shift careers due to remote work, the dramatic decrease in immigration during the pandemic, and the baby boomer generation increasingly reaching retirement age.
Some of these patterns shouldn’t be surprising. For example, the baby boomer generation has been retiring with increasing velocity since 2010. In fact, the Federal Reserve Bank of Boson determined back in 2001 that the United States would need a massive 40% increase in labor by the 2030s simply to maintain the standard of living of the early 2000s.
Workers Aren’t Lazy; They’re Gaining New Skills
One major reason that people are quitting is because they’re becoming more skilled overall, and are able to get better jobs. In 2022, workers armed themselves with new skills at a staggering rate. According to LinkedIn statistics, there was a 43% year-over-year increase in LinkedIn members adding new skills to their profiles. This suggests that workers are arming themselves with new capabilities, and also suggests an increased confidence in improving their careers.
There are countless factors in this dramatic worker shortage. However, the idea that the labor deficit is caused by mass laziness seems misguided. By pursuing education to push themselves in new directions, workers are creating a more skilled labor force. This confidence to pursue new opportunities appears to be a worldwide trend; CNBC and LinkedIn report that over 40% of employees in Australia, Singapore, and India are “more confident” with searching for a new job than they were in 2022.
This mass labor shortage has no clear end, and no obvious solution. However, it appears that people now are more willing and able to gain new skills and education to chart their own career paths. This suggests that workers in many sectors have more power and opportunity than before the pandemic.
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Sources used in this article:
Goh Chiew Tong, “Recession Fears Won’t Stop ‘The Big Quit’ In 2023, Says LinkedIn,” www.cnbc.com, https://www.cnbc.com/2023/01/
Megan Cassella, “The Labor Shortage Will Get Worse And May Last For Decades,” Barron’s, 9/2/2022 (https://archive.ph/Y2YQM)
Lucas Mearian, “The Great Resignation: Where Did The Millions Who Quit Their Jobs Go?” www.computerworld.com,
https://www.computerworld.com/article/3686615/the-great-resignation-where-did-the-millions-who-quit-their-jobs-go.html, accessed 1/1/2023