In a world of cheap emerging market labor and ever-more-dexterous robots, inflation – especially the wage-driven variety – seems like yesterday’s news. But maybe not. It’s late in the cycle and things are getting tight, with pretty much the same result as in every previous expansion: Companies are having to pay up and look farther afield for the things and people they need. Two current examples:
(MSN) – Jerry Stooksbury, the president of Avionics Specialists LLC, needed to produce an airplane instrument panel last fall, but had only two employees able to complete the task quickly.
One was out sick. The other was in high school.
He called the high-schooler, 17-year-old Thayer McCollum.
Thayer, who starts his days drinking chocolate milk and blasting indie rock, works part time operating mechanical-drawing software for aircraft parts. He came in to do the project and still had time for homework.
After the longest stretch of continuous job creation on record—more than seven years—the U.S. faces its most severe worker shortage in the past two decades. Employers, from General Electric Co. and Michelin North America Inc. to a Wisconsin nursing home and an Ohio turbine-parts manufacturer, are expanding their hunt to the labor market’s youngest echelon.
The 12-month average unemployment rate for teens in March was 13.9%, the lowest year-round average since 2001 and about half that in 2010. In July 2017, the month the most teens work, unemployment for 16-through-19-year-olds fell to 13.3%, the lowest midsummer rate since 1969, when the U.S. was embroiled in the Vietnam War.
“An increasingly tight labor market is pulling many workers who had been out of the labor force back in, teens included,” said Abigail Wozniak, a University of Notre Dame labor economist. Teens might wield an advantage, she said, because they “often have better computer skills. They are not all your typical low-skilled worker.”