Topic: Demographics
July 9, 2017

These changes will define, and perhaps undermine, our economy by creating a dearth of new workers. Between 2013 and 2025, the number of high school graduates in our state is expected to drop by 5 percent, compared to a 19 percent increase in Texas, 10 percent growth in Florida and a 9 percent rise in North Carolina. Some, of course, may hail these trends. Environmental activists and their allies in the density lobby generally prefer a childless population, both to cut greenhouse gas emissions and to expand their influence. Some tech-oriented futurists may even suggest that robots will replace all but the most skilled of workers, making additional children more a burden than a blessing. Yet, for California employers — at least until the technological nirvana — a labor shortage, particularly in skilled trades, could prove troubling in the near-term, and even medium-term, future. Historically, California could count on migration from both the rest of the nation and abroad. But this seems to have changed dramatically. The state has lost more domestic migrants than it has gained since at least 2000. Net immigration, the other lodestone of our labor force growth, has also slowed.

July 2, 2017

Historically, California’s great strength was the diversity of its economy, stretching from high-tech and aerospace to finance, entertainment, energy, basic manufacturing and homebuilding. Yet, during the most recent boom, the growth of high-wage job growth largely took place in one region — the Bay Area — while other sectors generally stagnated or shrank. . . . Perhaps most damaging of all, the allure of the tech boom has been used to justify Sacramento’s crushing regulatory and tax regime. The state’s strong performance since 2010 has convinced many in the political class and the media that business climate does not matter. It has made apologists able to ignore some 10,000 businesses that have left or expanded outside of the state, many of them employing middle- and working-class people. High-tech and entertainment are great industries to have, even at slower growth rates, but they cannot long carry such a diverse state with the highest poverty rate in the country and severe affordability challenges. California has been largely lulled to sleep by a now fading boom. We could experience a very rude awakening that will cause havoc to the state budget, produce a potential housing correction and challenge communities across the state.

June 30, 2017

For the second year in a row, the number of babies delivered in the U.S. fell in 2016, according to a new report from the National Center for Health Statistics. For some groups of women, the birth rate reached record lows.

June 27, 2017

For months, I've planned to write a column on the future of the U.S. labor market. Stacked on my desk are reports on "the gig economy," "independent workers," "contingent workers," "freelancers" and the like. All signify a new, less secure labor market. Workers won't have long-lasting career jobs, as the old post-World War II employment model promised. Now it's survival of the fittest. Workers who can adapt to constant change will thrive. As for everyone else, tough luck. I never wrote that column. The main reason is that I never felt certain that this widely prophesied labor market would prevail. Indeed, the postwar employment model might make a comeback. Demographics — the ongoing retirement of the massive baby-boom generation — would make experienced and competent workers prized resources. Because the labor force would be growing only slowly, many companies would try to stabilize their employment by offering career jobs with better wages and benefits. I still don't know which of these models will triumph: the first reflecting a management belief that workers must be hired and fired as business conditions dictate; the second based on the notion that good workers will be scarce for the foreseeable future and smart companies will do their best to train and retain them.

June 20, 2017

But the shortage is particularly problematic in places such as Kosciusko County, where the unemployment rate rests at 2 percent. Of the county’s 41,136 adults who can work, 40,311 are employed, according to government statistics. This region — a land of clear lakes, duck farms and medical device makers — escaped the industrial decline that rocked other communities throughout the Rust Belt. It prospered, thanks to a local industry that proved largely immune to competition from China and Mexico. But without more people to grow Warsaw’s business, the chances of companies relocating is “extraordinarily high,” said Michael Hicks, a labor economist at Indiana’s Ball State University

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