Why Is There a Labor Shortage In The Trades?

In this blog, we answer the question, “How bad is the labor shortage?” by taking look at the U.S. labor market as a whole. Then, we dive into the skilled trades labor shortage specifically, outlining five factors that contributed to the shortage. Finally, we explain how Skillwork can bridge the gap between employers looking for workers and workers looking for trade industry jobs.

How Bad Is The Labor Shortage?

Since the pandemic, millions of new businesses were started and others have rebounded, creating an unprecedented number of new jobs.

According to the latest data from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, there are 9.8 million job openings in the U.S. but only 5.9 million unemployed workers. This means that even if every unemployed person in the country found a job, we would still have around 4 million open jobs. 

In addition to there being more jobs than unemployed people, there are 1.9 million able-bodied Americans (since February 2020) missing from the labor force. This poses the question, “Why are people not returning to work?” There are a web of factors at play:

  1. Early retirements
  2. Government assistance
  3. Unemployment benefits
  4. Health concerns
  5. Increase in savings
  6. Lack of childcare
  7. Change in priorities

While Covid-19 played a huge part in the factors contributing to the country’s labor shortage troubles over the past few years, the skilled trades labor shortage isn’t new news. For example, NAM’s quarterly outlook surveys show that the lack of skilled labor was a major challenge for the manufacturing industry even before the pandemic.

The question isn’t, “Is there a shortage of trade workers?” but “Why is there a labor shortage in the trades?” 

5 Factors Contributing to The Skilled Trades Labor Shortage

1. Aging workforce

Many skilled trade workers are from the Baby Boomer generation. As they retire, some exiting the workforce sooner than expected due to the pandemic, years of experience and wisdom leave with them. Their absence widens the gap between the number of trade industry jobs available compared to the number of workers willing to replace them.

2. Elimination of shop classes

Over the past several decades, shop classes have been eliminated from schools across the country. These hands-on classes once sparked curiosity in the minds of high school students as they learned a practical skill or trade. Now, few students are even exposed to the idea of pursuing trade industry jobs. 

3. Emphasis on four-year degrees

Society has increasingly emphasized four-year college degrees as the golden ticket to success. As a result, students are not only encouraged to – but often expected to – attend college after graduation, causing them to overlook the valuable and fulfilling career opportunities available in the skilled trades. 

4. Societal stigma

With the education system being skewed towards college preparation, it’s influenced society’s perception of the skilled trades. Trade industry jobs are seen as less prestigious and less lucrative compared to white-collar professions. This stigma has prevented the younger generation from considering the trades as a career path, creating a blue-collar crisis

5. Skills gap

The Fourth Industrial Revolution has rocked the manufacturing world, in particular. By leveraging advanced technologies, it's exacerbated the workforce shortage because people’s jobs are becoming obsolete and it’s created a skills gap because tradesmen don’t have the necessary skills to work with this new technology.

Now that you have some background on the skilled tradesmen shortage, we want to provide a solution.

Find In-Demand Skilled Trades Jobs and Workers

As America’s premier skilled trades travel staffing agency, Skillwork is the bridge between employers in the trades and skilled workers. 

  • Employers: Having difficulty finding the right skilled talent? With our experience and network in the trades, we can get you the workers you need when you need them, however long you need them, and wherever you need them. Contact us.
  • Tradesmen: Looking for in-demand skilled trade jobs? We place tradesmen in short- and long-term positions across the country. You’ll gain diverse experiences in new places that expand your skill sets, all while making a great wage. Apply now.

At Skillwork, we take the stress out of recruiting and job hunting. Stop the search and rely on us to find you work or workers today.


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