U.S. business leaders have identified access to skilled labor as a competitive strength in the United States, but a deteriorating one. They and civic leaders point to an anomaly: persistent underemployment while employers struggle to match the right talent to open positions. Concerns have ranged from widespread skill gaps (e.g., too few workers with STEM or technical skills) to skill shortages in specific, in-demand occupations (e.g., welders) to too few applicants with requisite soft skills: work ethic, motivation, the ability to work in teams.
Some economists challenge the notion of gaps and shortages. They counter that if they existed, wages would have risen faster than they have in recent years. Absent strong wage growth, some economists contend the skills problem has more to do with a timing mismatch than chronic gaps or shortages. In short, employers, civic leaders, and economists acknowledge a U.S. skills problem, but frequently disagree on its nature.
Learn more from the full Oregon Talent Assessment.