Yesterday in the AA News business section Mike Ramsey wrote a really ridiculous article about an impending shortage of skilled labor in this country.
“There’s a lot of baby boomers in the population and the first ones turned 60 not too long ago, and by 2010 a lot of them will be leaving the work force in droves,” said Sean McAlinden, chief economist for the Ann Arbor-based Center for Automotive Research. “Quite frankly, by 2010, presuming we still have any auto plants at all, they will all be hiring.”
The problem with that statement is that presumption of having any auto plants in 2010. Here is a copy of the letter I sent to the News this morning.
As I read Mike Ramsey’s article about a looming labor shortage, the only thing I could think was “What planet is this guy living on?” Has Mr. Ramsey actually tried to find a job in Michigan recently. There is not a shortage a labor here now or in the near future. What there is, is a shortage of skilled laborers willing or able to work for Wal-Mart wages. There are thousands of skilled workers who are being laid off by automakers and suppliers now and in the next few years. Skilled (and unskilled) laborers from Delphi have been asked to take a 60% pay cut. Even people who are not losing their jobs are seeing there wages stagnate or worse. According to census data median household income fell 3.8% from 1999-2004 while prices continued to climb and even productivity increased over that same period. Of course this wage stagnation has not been applied to executives whose compensation has continued to climb. As manufacturing jobs continue to get shipped to low cost labor markets, the only way people can get jobs here is to accept lower wages. Soon there will be no market in the United States for all the cheap products because no one here will be employed. As I was graduating with my engineering degree 15 years ago, there was a lot of talk of a shortage of 750,000 engineers by now. Well that never materialized either. If anything is a surplus of engineers now.
As the workforce ages there will also still be plenty of people available to work. Without decent paying jobs we won’t have a younger workforce paying into social security and with pension plans going belly up, the people who expected to retire will have to stay in the workforce. And since only people who already have plenty of money seem to be benefiting from the tax cuts of recent years, the vast majority of us will just have to keep working or at least trying to. Also the tax policies of the republican legislature and the previous republican governor have done nothing but eviscerate revenue for the state and local governments so they can’t do anything to help either.
Next time Mr. Ramsey might want to talk to someone besides the corporate managers who are obsessed with off-shoring every job they can before writing such a ridiculous article.