Saturday, May 31, 2008

Labor Shortage Diaspora

The looming talent wars seem ridiculous to job starved states such as Michigan. The future is now in Iowa and shrinking cities best heed the warning:

Iowa’s surplus arises from colliding trends: the exodus of young college graduates, a state economy that adds 2,000 jobs a month, low immigration and birth rates, and an image problem that makes it difficult to recruit workers from out of state. Iowans’ median age is nearly two years above the national figure, and the state is near the top in the rates of women in the workforce and workers with multiple jobs — further shrinking the pool of people who might be drawn into the market.

“It’s really a perfect storm,” said Elisabeth Buck, director of Iowa Workforce Development. Over the next decade, more than 70,000 workers a year will become eligible for retirement, with school enrollment — potential replacement workers — dropping by 20,000 since 1998, while the nationwide housing crisis makes it harder for companies to recruit from out of state, because potential employees cannot sell their homes.

I think the key variable of influence is the ability to attract workers from out of state. There are limits to economic pull factors. Establishing a pathway for chain migration is safe bet, but that's easier said than done. I know how it could be done. I'm sure other policymakers could figure it out. The drag comes from the obsession with the graduates leaving the state.

The answer is to promote out-migration.

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