At one time, the rising unemployment rates and the decreased availability of jobs were alarming many Americans. However, what is becoming more surprising now is that jobs are there but the workers are not. More and more industries are facing an unprecedented labor shortage.

According to a recently released report by the U. S. Department of Labor, the number of job openings reached 6.04 million, which is the highest level recorded since the government began monitoring this data in 2000. The same report indicated that the number of hires fell by 253,000 to 5.1 million.[1]

Reason Behind the Labor Shortage

The causes for the increasing number of unfilled jobs cannot be pinpointed to one precise explanation. However, one leading justification stems from the aging and subsequent retirement of baby boomers. According to a survey conducted by The Manufacturing Institute and Deloitte Consulting LLP, approximately 22 percent of skilled manufacturing workers (almost 2.7 million valued employees) will be retiring within the next 10 years. In addition, another 700,000 workers will be needed due to industry growth.[2] The aging of baby boomers not only leads to openings within the retiree’s industry, but also a rising demand in others. In some cases, aging can be associated with deteriorating of the physical condition. This would lead to greater need for healthcare professionals, such as physical therapists, nurses, home health aides and others.

Another reason stems from the negative attitude that is too often associated with “blue collar” work. Millennials are the generation that was encouraged by their parents to go to college and get a good job. Unfortunately, the definition of a good job was often limited to the white collar profession. While the advantages of getting a higher education cannot be diminished, the choice of majors led to a shortfall of manual labor workers.

The seven professions that are in the most dire straits in terms of the labor shortage are:

Infographic detailing the number of job openings in the U.S.

Housing Construction Workers

The crash of the housing market sent many in its workforce into other areas. Now, the homebuilding industry is struggling to find workers. According to the National Association of Home Builders, nearly 200,000 construction jobs are unfilled in this country. This is an increase of 81 percent in the last two years. The Department of Labor reports that the ratio of construction job openings-to-hiring is at the highest level that it has been since 2007.[3]


The American Truckers Association stated that the shortage of freight drivers has increased from 20,000 vacant positions to 70,000. Speculation is that this number could increase to over 170,000 by 2025.[4]


According to a survey conducted in 2012, not only is the skilled-trade industry working at a deficit of employees, it is likely to get extremely worse with 53 percent of the workers 45 years or older.[5]

Occupational and Physical Therapist Assistants and Aides

The aging population and the need for more manual labor workers is steering the need for more occupational and physical therapists. The demand in the occupational therapy field is expected to increase by 27 percent by 2024.[6]

Railroad Engineers

A railroad engineer is not someone who sits in the caboose and toots the horn. In addition to an in-depth understanding of engineering, an individual needs to have a working knowledge of electrification and signaling. In America, only five colleges offer degrees in railroad and railway transportation.[7] So, finding qualified replacements for retiring staff may be a difficult task.

Mathematical Science Occupations

As more people look for numbers to support their decision making, the need for data specialists is growing. Occupations in the mathematical sciences include actuaries, operation research analysts, statisticians and mathematicians. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) states that this is one of the fastest growing occupations and should see a growth of 28 percent from 2014 to 2024.[8]

Medical and Clinical Assistants

Not only are these individuals employed by doctor’s offices, they are also heavily in demand in outpatient care centers and medical laboratories. The field is expected to grow to almost 140,000 jobs between 2014 and 2024.[9]

Changes from Within

One method to decrease the skilled labor gap is to improve the skills within your existing workforce. Encouraging employees to enhance their talents with on-the-job training opportunities can be a way to maintain productivity. This can save some of the costs associated with new hires. The growth and development of an employee can be stimulated by:

  • Creating employee development plans
  • Offering training in new areas of interest
  • Providing resources that promote educational advancement
  • Open lines of communication

For companies both in and out of these labor-shortage industries, getting more workers can be a costly endeavor. Efficiently navigating the search-and-hire process can be overwhelming, but the professionals at TPG Staffing are prepared to help. For over a decade, we have been partnering with companies of all sizes to create efficient hiring solutions. Call us at 732-246-7100 to find out more.