business news in context, analysis with attitude

The Boston Globe has a story suggesting that there is too little conversation in the country about a serious labor crisis:   "America is running out of working-age adults."

Why are workers evaporating?, the Globe asks.  "A bunch of reasons. Baby Boomers are retiring. Some women are staying home because child care is unaffordable. And working-age men are opting out of the labor force in record numbers, particularly those without college degrees.

"But the single most important reason is that America’s birth rate has largely been below replacement level since the 1970s, and in steep decline for the past 15 years.

Once, the country was brimming with an up-and-coming workforce. In 1960, there were six working adults for every person over 65. In 2030, we’ll hit 2.8 working adults for every person over 65.

"That’s an economic earthquake. And the number of working adults is slated to keep shrinking in proportion to older Americans. So if you think it’s hard finding a home health aide, or a preschool teacher, or a waiter, or a construction worker now, buckle up."

The Globe goes on: "We may be staring down the barrel of worker shortages so severe that our life choices become increasingly constrained. Can you accept that plum job across the country? Not if your dad needs someone to take care of him, and professional help is unaffordable. Can you return to work after maternity leave? Not if there aren’t any slots in nearby preschools."

KC's View:

The Globe suggests that "there are two potential solutions to America’s incredible shrinking labor pool: Have more babies, or bring in more immigrants."  And while having more babies sounds like more fun, fixing the nation's immigration issues probably is a faster short-term fix.

I'm raising this issue not in a political sense, and I certainly don't have a solution.  But since I think it is fair so say that a shortage of working-age adults is going to affect retailers, it seems appropriate to suggest that retailers ought to be working overtime to force their elected representatives to make this a high priority.