As many baby boomers approach retirement age, a new study out of Boston says it's unclear whether there will be enough younger workers to fill their ranks.
"By 2018, we may indeed have more jobs than workers," said Barry Bluestone, the study's co-author and director of the Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy at Northeastern University. His analysis used data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the U.S. Census to project how the American workforce will change over the next decade.
Over the next eight years, the study projects, 15 million new jobs will be created, but that there will only be nine or 10 million new workers available. That shortage, Bluestone said, could cost the U.S. economy up to $3 trillion.
Bluestone said the disparity will disproportionately affect what he calls "the social sector": education, health and social service, as well as government and nonprofits. However, the labor deficit could lessen if more baby boomers than expected work beyond retirement age.
The causes of the worker shortage are primarily demographic: the post-war baby boom was followed by a "baby bust" that lasted until the late 1970s. As boomers retire, there are less Gen-Xers available to replace them. Aging boomers will also require more health care and social services.
"Back in the 1940s, '50s, and '60s, we reconfigured the American economy around children," Bluestone explained. "We're now going to see the economy have to accommodate these baby boomers who are seniors. And that will mean major changes in the way America looks as well as major changes in the labor market."
This program aired on March 22, 2010. The audio for this program is not available.