Similar to every other state in the nation over the last few years, Massachusetts has experienced quite an upheaval in its employment trends, mostly spurred by the global pandemic. But now with vaccines and other treatment options, the world seems to be getting back to work either in-person, remotely, or in a hybrid format.
How is Massachusetts doing in the labor market, especially given the nationwide skilled labor shortage? Let’s take a closer look at what the numbers tell us regarding the current workforce as well as why the current circumstances exist. We’ll also examine where the state can improve and how AMTEP can help.
What Is A Labor Shortage?
Before we begin looking at the state of the Massachusetts labor shortage, let’s look at what exactly is a labor shortage.
Does it mean there are too many jobs? Too many workers that are unqualified?
The Balance online defines a labor shortage as a time “when the demand for workers for a particular occupation is greater than the supply of workers who are qualified, available, and willing to do that job, there is a labor shortage. That shortage is based on supply and demand—are there enough workers to meet an organization’s hiring needs? If not, there is a labor shortage.”
When a labor shortage or manpower shortage exists, as it seems to currently in Massachusetts, the labor pool is low, recruiting qualified workers is difficult, filing open positions takes longer, and the retention rate is poor.
Massachusetts’ Worrisome Numbers
According to a Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation (MTF) report, Massachusetts is facing some worrisome numbers including a skilled labor shortage. Their numbers show that there are “two available jobs for every unemployed person.” In fact, this number indicates that the which is double the ratio from five years ago. Data from September 2022 indicated Massachusetts’ labor shortage is around 160,000.
A report highlighted in the MassINC Research Brief of June 2022 shows that demographers warned Massachusetts decades ago to prepare for just such a potential labor shortage on the horizon, not due to an unforeseen pandemic but rather because of the painful challenge that the retirement of baby boom workers would present. This admonition in the Research Brief “came before the Great Recession and pandemic took their tolls, not to mention growth in inequality and concentrated poverty, and runaway housing costs.”
MassINC warns that if you think it’s hard to find qualified skilled workers now, it’s just going to get worse. They suggest that due to rapidly changing demographic, socioeconomic, and educational trends, the alarming updated projection warns that the Commonwealth’s working-age, workforce-trained population may actually fall by as many as 192,000 residents, more than four times the original prediction, by 2030.
In order to make corrections to this dire prediction it is important to understand the factors that are playing a role in this labor shortage as well as steps that can be taken to alleviate the problem.
Factors Impacting the Labor Shortage
Obviously, in the last three years, Bay Staters have been impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic causing them to lose jobs, shutter businesses, and come up with some innovative ways to make the business work.
This not only affected the medical well-being of the workforce but also the health of companies in general. Here are just three of the factors believed to have been at play to create just a stark labor shortage in the Commonwealth.
An Aging Population & Retirement
The increasing demographic trend of our aging population leaving the workforce here in Massachusetts got a big push to retire from the pandemic. As a result, Massachusetts’ working-age, college-educated labor force will drop by approximately 87,000 residents between now and 2030.
Outmigration of Bay Staters
While some states seem to be gaining working-age employees in droves, Massachusetts has been shown to be losing (outmigration) approximately 8,000 working-age, college-educated residents of Massachusetts to other states each year since the 2010s.
Shrinking Numbers of Incoming International Students
Due in part to travel restrictions during the pandemic and immigration restrictions enacted in the past decade, “international migration has fallen steadily, and domestic migration has become a drain on Massachusetts’ population.” (MassINC)
Improving Labor Shortage Numbers in Massachusetts
Massachusetts should consider improving several key areas that can help the workforce get back to work and train skilled workers in the manufacturing, medical, computer tech, and other needed fields. Part of these improvements should include improvements in affordable housing, transportation options, affordable daycare, and our specialty – workforce training.
Massachusetts policymakers can pursue several tactics to ameliorate the labor shortage, including increasing job training programs, investing in trade schools, re-aligning post-secondary school requirements and certificates, and investing in career development and exploration.
Increase Job Training
Here are AMTEP we work to be part of the solution, specifically in the training of skilled workers in the manufacturing industry. We work to develop the regional workforce pipeline that will provide the skilled employees necessary for advanced manufacturing to remain globally competitive, long into the future.
We have built our reputation as the “go-to” resource for training job-seekers and incumbent workers in the skills valued by advanced manufacturers in northeastern Massachusetts.
Re-Align Post Secondary Credentials
Many businesses are partnering with community colleges and training programs to re-align the need for degrees and certifications in certain job placements. Careers that once needed a four-year college degree are now able to be filled with educated workers who have completed a certificate program, associate’s program, or apprenticeship program.
Invest in Career Exploration & Student Support Services
Investing in support services and career exploration at the high school level can help many future employees to understand the industries that are in high demand as well as the cost of a college education in relation to the potential career earnings. All of this preparation can assist students on the cusp of joining the workforce to become invested in the true innovation that happens here in Massachusetts.