Help Wanted: Too Many Jobs and Not Enough Workers in Most States

By: - October 14, 2019 12:00 am

A construction worker guides an automated machine that builds masonry at a school job site in Colorado. Faced with a labor shortage, the construction industry hopes that robots and other technologies will help boost productivity. David Zalubowski/The Associated Press

A labor shortage is jeopardizing economic expansion in almost every state, putting pressure on lawmakers to find ways to attract more residents and coax people who have dropped out of the workforce to rejoin it.

States are offering financial incentives to entice prodigal natives to move home and raise families. They’re also reaching out to discouraged workers who don’t show up in the record-low unemployment rate because they’ve given up seeking jobs. Among them: people with outdated skills, high-school dropouts and those with criminal records.

In 39 states, there are more jobs than people looking for them, according to a Stateline analysis of June hiring and employment data from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.

North Carolina had the highest job openings rate, with 5.7% of all jobs unfilled. Missouri, North Dakota and Virginia were close behind at about 5.3%.

In Northern and Midwestern states such as Missouri and North Dakota, the labor pool is limited by slower population growth and a higher proportion of older residents.

In fast-growing Southern states such as North Carolina and Virginia, there aren’t enough construction and health care workers to meet the needs of new residents.

Nationally the number of job openings in August was 7.1 million, compared with 6 million unemployed people looking for work, according to federal statistics.

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Tim Henderson
Tim Henderson

Tim Henderson covers demographics for Stateline. He has been a reporter at the Miami Herald, the Cincinnati Enquirer and the Journal News.