Our Future Labor Force: Will Our Supply Meet Our Demand?
Career College Central summary:
The largest generation of Americans — the Baby Boomer generation — is reaching retirement age, and this demographic wave will create a large number of job vacancies in various industries. These demographic changes mean that by 2030, there will be more native-born people leaving the workforce than entering it. How, then, will our supply of workers meet the demand for them? In the future, as in the past, our nation will rely on immigrants and their children to fulfill our workforce needs and sustain a growing economy.
A recent Center for American Progress report by Dowell Myers, Stephen Levy, and John Pitkin indicates that between 2010 and 2030, 58.6 million workers will have left the workforce. The report also projects, however, that only 51.3 million workers who are native born and not of immigrant parents are likely to enter the workforce in this period. Thus, if our country relied solely on native-born people — third generation or higher — it would be 7.3 million people short of the total number of people needed to replace those who are leaving the workforce.
Based on current trends, immigrants and their children — the first generation and the second generation, respectively — will help meet our future workforce needs. In the 2020s, if current immigration trends continue, the number of immigrants entering the workforce will increase by about 12 percent, and the number of children of immigrants joining the workforce will increase by 46 percent.
The growing number of immigrants and their children entering the workforce is important to the economy for two reasons. First, in order to maintain our economy’s current level of production, the number of people entering the workforce needs to keep pace with the number of people leaving it. As explained earlier, without immigrants and their children, our economy would not be able to maintain the present size of our workforce over the next 20 years. Immigrants and their children are therefore responsible for ensuring that, at the very least, our economy can continue to function at its current level of production.
Second, and more importantly, as our nation continues to recover from the Great Recession and as our economy grows, we will need a larger workforce. The need for a larger workforce in the coming years is already evident. The CAP report projects that between 2010 and 2030, there will be about 90 million job openings. Two-thirds of these openings will be due to the mass exodus of Baby Boomers from the workforce, but about one-third, or 30 million jobs, will be the result of job growth. This projected job growth, though, can only be fully realized if there is corresponding workforce growth; the 31.5 million immigrants and their children projected to enter the workforce by 2030 will drive this workforce growth. In fact, 85 percent of the net workforce growth over the next two decades will come from immigrants and their children.
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CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS