Excerpt: By Dennis J. Donovan

The fact that we are in a period of acute labor shortage becomes abundantly clear when unemployment rates are examined. Some 85 percent of this country’s metro areas have unemployment rates below 6 percent. In roughly half these areas, the jobless rate is less than 4 percent. Labor markets are the tightest they have been in a long time, and no relief is on the horizon. A number of dynamics are shaping this dilemma.

Strong Employment Demand

The first factor is strong employment demand. Since 1990, the rate of job formation has outdistanced population growth, and forecasts call for this trend to persist well into the future. This demand is concentrated in several occupational categories where supply cannot keep pace, ranging from entry level to professional technical positions. At the entry level, employers are seeking workers possessing solid basic skills (e.g., reading, writing, and math) as well as 12 to 15 years’ education and some previous work experience.

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