Is There a Shortage of Skilled Labor? Point, Counterpoint

Mish Shedlock  |

Companies complain about a shortage of labor. Is the complaint real or imaginary?

Shortage of Labor Claims

Record Job Openings

I discussed record job openings in Job Openings Decline by 284,000 But Still Near Record Highs

In the above link I discussed fictitious measures.

Case for Fictitious Numbers

Posting job openings on the internet is cheap. This does not mean companies are actually looking to hire.

  • Some companies want to investigate resumes just see what's out there.
  • Some companies prefer lower-pay foreign workers via the H1B Visa process. They post jobs with more qualifications than they really need to make a case no domestic workers applied.
  • For low-pay high-turnover jobs, companies keep many jobs open because they expect quits. There were 3.6 million quits in September.

I made the claim "If there really was a shortage of 7 million workers, wages would be soaring."

Reader Comments

  • The Realist commented: "No matter how you try to explain it away, there is a shortage of skilled workers. It may be overstated, statistically speaking, but there is still a shortage."
  • Pater Tenebrarum at the Acting Man blog replied "It should be noted though that there is a skill mismatch problem it is a remnant of the malinvestment orgy attending the previous cyclical bubble iteration."

Who is Right

All of us, in different ways.

The Realist is correct. There is a shortage, but an overstated one.

If there really was a shortage of 7 million workers, I stand by my claim that wages would be soaring.

Pater Tenebrarum made the most critical point. Let me rephrase it.

There's Always a Perceived Shortage at the Top

Think back to 2006. Supposedly there was a shortage of Florida condos.

Alleged "Proof" was easy to find. People were lining up around the corner to enter lotteries for the right to buy a condo.

More recently, in Australia, speculative demand from China made it look like there was a shortage of houses down under. That bubble recently died and has a long way to go before it's finished.

This time, rather than creating another enormous housing bubble, the Fed revived the junk bond market. Zombie corporations make up 15% of S&P corporations.

Cheap money finances many speculative endeavors.

Is there a shortage of skilled fracking workers? Probably, but how many of those drillers survive only because they can roll over debt?

Is there a shortage of truck drivers? Again, that's likely. But on top of boomer demographics (millennials don't want to drive trucks), we have an over-expansion of all kinds of franchises thanks to cheap credit.

As soon as the bubbles pop, there will not be any labor shortages, real or imaginary.

Also see Rise of the Zombie Corporations: Percentage Keeps Increasing, BIS Explains Why.

Mike "Mish" Shedlock

This article was originally published on Mish Talk.

DISCLOSURE: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors, and do not represent the views of equities.com. Readers should not consider statements made by the author as formal recommendations and should consult their financial advisor before making any investment decisions. To read our full disclosure, please go to: http://www.equities.com/disclaimer

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