The rapid growth of e-commerce, a strengthening economy, and a rebounding in consumer spending habits have caused a spike in demand in the US trucking industry over the past few years. At the same time as the need for their services is growing, however, the country is facing a shortage of truck drivers, Kirsten Korosec reports at Fortune, with an aging population of drivers exiting the workforce and fewer young Americans willing to sign up for long, lonely hours on the road:
The pain point is specific. The industry calls them “full-truckload, over-the-road nonlocal drivers,” jargon for drivers who haul goods over long distances, often days, if not weeks, before returning home. That lifestyle just isn’t attracting millennials and the incoming Gen Z cohort who place a greater emphasis on work/life balance.
The long-haul sector, which employs around 500,000, was in need of nearly 51,000 truck drivers by the end of 2017, the worst shortage it had ever seen. The lack of qualified drivers—some trucking companies have complained only 1% to 2% of applicants meet their requirements—has businesses competing for the same pool of workers.
The shortage is creating a ripple effect. Companies vying for qualified workers are offering higher pay and signing bonuses. The median pay for drivers in this category is $59,000, according to the ATA. Experienced drivers who work for private fleets can make as much as $86,000 a year.
The truck driver shortage is not new: At CEB, now Gartner, our State of the Labor Market report for the US late last year showed that heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers had the highest demand of all occupations, followed by registered nurses. Demand for trucking skills has been growing rapidly, but with experienced drivers retiring and not being replaced by new talent, the segment of the labor market with this skill is very small. (CEB Recruiting Leadership Council members can read the full report here.)
Newly released data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics show that the unemployment rate for people with disabilities declined last year to 9.2 percent, from 10.5 percent in 2016. While still considerably higher than the overall unemployment rate, which stood at 4.2 percent in 2017 and fell to an 18-year monthly low of 3.8 percent in May, the BLS figures indicate that people with disabilities are also experiencing the benefits of today’s tight labor market. “The decline reflects the trend in the overall labor force, which has been recovering since the end of the Great Recession,” BLS economist Janie-Lynn Kang tells Kathy Gurchiek at SHRM.
Overall, 18.7 percent of people with disabilities in the US were employed in 2017, the BLS data shows—up from 17.9 percent in 2016. Employed people with disabilities were more likely to be self-employed than those with no disability, the agency said, and were also more likely to work part-time (32 percent, compared with 17 percent for those with no disability). Overall, however, eight in ten US adults with disabilities are not in the labor force at all, while only 3 percent of these individuals said they wanted a job.
Concomitant with job growth among this segment of the population, the number of Americans seeking Social Security Disability Insurance benefits has been falling sharply, the New York Times reported last week:
Mercer’s latest Workforce Monitor report points to what the consultancy calls an “unprecedented labor shortage” in the UK in the coming years as declining immigration reveals the extent to which an aging population is shrinking the country’s domestic workforce, challenging employers to find new avenues for growth in a limited talent market. Neil Franklin parses their research at Workplace Insight:
Mercer anticipates the UK workforce will increase by just 820,000, or 2.4 percent, by 2025, a significant reduction in recent trends that have seen 9 percent workforce growth in the 10 years to 2015. For the first time in half a century, the overall population will be increasing at a faster rate than the workforce, creating long term structural challenges for the economy. …
Mercer also expects there to be a significant shift in age demographics across the workforce. Projections suggest that over the next eight years there will be 300,000 fewer workers under the age of 30 and 1 million more over 50 in the UK as a result of falling net migration and ageing baby-boomers. This is likely to have a particular impact on London, whose economy is heavily dependent on young and migrant labour. Mercer forecasts that London’s resident under 30s worker population will fall by 25%, whilst over 50s will increase by 25%.
Mercer’s projections are the latest in a series of dire warnings about the likelihood of labor shortages after the UK’s scheduled exit from the EU next year. A report from the CIPD last year found that the country likely cannot meet its labor needs without access to foreign talent, which Brexit is expected to sharply curtail. Uncertainty over future immigration policies have left British employers worried about how they will meet their future talent needs in the absence of spare capacity and a tight domestic labor market.
The latest American Working Conditions Survey from the RAND Corporation highlights the finding that most US retirees would take advantage of an opportunity to return to work, and that retirement-age employees opt to remain in the workforce not so much because they can’t afford to retire, but because they enjoy working—especially as they report having more meaningful work and more flexibility in their jobs than their younger co-workers. Steve Vernon explores the study’s findings at CBS Moneywatch:
The AWCS found that more than two-thirds of older men and women reported satisfaction with work well done and felt they were doing useful work. Prime-age women reported about the same level of satisfaction, but only a little more than half of prime-age men reported these same levels of satisfaction.
Older workers are also more likely than prime-age workers to say they apply their own ideas and solve unforeseen problems, and they’re less likely to report that they perform monotonous tasks. Older workers are also more likely to report workplace flexibility than their younger peers. College graduates in particular are more than twice as likely to determine their own work schedules as their younger counterparts are.
Older workers do also have practical rationales for delaying retirement, the survey found: Doing so allows them to delay when they start collecting Social Security benefits, which increases their expected lifetime payout. Older workers may also choose to stay at work for the health insurance benefits they receive from their employer, which reduce their out-of-pocket health care costs (the largest expense for retirees), or to participate in workplace wellness programs that help keep them in good health.
Recent surveys of the US workforce show that more Americans are working or planning to work past the conventional retirement age of 65, driven by a mix of increasing life expectancy, a preference for work over retirement, and financial concerns about their ability to retire comfortably. Looking at data from the latest US jobs report, Bloomberg’s Ben Steverman observes that the upward trend in older workers is holding steady, with almost 19 percent of people 65 or older working at least part-time in the second quarter of 2017:
The age group’s employment/population ratio hasn’t been higher in 55 years, before American retirees won better health care and Social Security benefits starting in the late 1960s. … Certainly baby boomers are increasingly ignoring the traditional retirement age of 65. Last quarter, 32 percent of Americans 65 to 69 were employed. Even past age 70, a growing number of seniors are declining to, or unable to, retire. Last quarter, 19 percent of 70- to 74-year-olds were working, up from 11 percent in 1994.
Older Americans are working more even as those under 65 are working less, a trend that the Bureau of Labor Statistics expects to continue. By 2024, 36 percent of 65- to 69-year-olds will be active participants in the labor market, the BLS says. That’s up from just 22 percent in 1994.
The trends look strikingly different for men and women, however. While workforce participation is on the rise among older Americans of both genders, Preeti Varathan remarks at Quartz, men over 65 are still working at much lower rates than they were half a century ago, while older women’s participation is reaching record highs:
Most prognosticators of the future of work believe that as more and more rote mechanical and basic knowledge work is automated, many of the jobs that will remain for people will involve interacting with and caring for other human beings. As the US population gets older on average, the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that the health care industry will add more jobs than any other sector of the economy in the coming decade (other developed countries with aging populations are looking at something similar). The expansion of the health care workforce is the main reason why some economists see women having an advantage over men in the job market of the near future, and health care is also seen as a viable second career for many blue-collar men whose jobs in manufacturing have been eaten up by automation or outsourcing.
Lost in this conversation, however, is the question of whether the health care jobs of the future will provide as decent a living as the manufacturing jobs of the past. While highly skilled and trained professionals like nurses may enjoy good pay and job security, the majority of health care jobs are in direct care, comprising home health aides, nursing assistants, and direct support professionals for people with disabilities or special needs. Direct care workers make up a large and growing segment of the health sector, Soo Oh writes at Vox, and face little risk of being replaced by machines anytime soon:
One of the fastest-growing fields is direct care: There are at least 3.6 million direct care workers in the US, not including an estimated 800,000 unreported workers, according to researchers. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects an increase of more than 1 million new direct care workers — personal care workers, home health aides, and nursing assistants — between 2014 and 2024. Unlike food service or retail jobs, which round out the top five growing jobs, direct care workers are not in immediate danger of being edged out by automation or internet commerce.
Unfortunately, these jobs offer low pay, few or no benefits, and taxing work conditions:
Three quarters of employed American adults plans to keep working either part-time or full-time after they reach retirement age, according to a new survey from Gallup:
Nearly two in three employed U.S. adults, 63%, say they plan to work past retirement age, but on a part-time basis. An additional 11% say they will work full time once they hit retirement age. A quarter of employed Americans say they will stop working altogether. …
Of those who say they will continue working, but only full time, the majority plan to do so because they want to, not because they have to. The proportion of “want to” versus “will have to” explanations has edged up slightly since 2013. The percentage who say they “want to” keep working part time has also risen, from 34% to 44%. There has been a decline in nonretirees’ intentions to continue working full time, from 9% “will have to” in 2013 to 5% today, while the percentage who “will have to” work part time has dropped from 26% to 18%.
Americans also have differing views on what constitutes “retirement age,” Gallup found. While the official retirement age—i.e., the age at which Americans can being collecting their full Social Security benefits—is 65, only about a quarter of respondents to the survey said they planned to retire at exactly that age, while 39 percent said they intended to retire after 65 and 29 percent said they expected to retire earlier.