Every year around this time we take a look ahead at the trends we see for this year that will affect labor, management, and the workplace in general. They are always some of the most read articles we post through the entire year. It’s time to take a look at the trends for this year.
Real wages increases will continue in 2019, but at a slow rate. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, real average hourly earnings increased 1.1%, seasonally adjusted, from December 2017 to December 2018. This was an increase from the 0.4% increase in 2017. While that increase was better, it still shows slow or nearly stagnant wage growth. Unfortunately, we do not see change in this area, but hope growth will continue.
Employment growth will slow in 2019. The Columbus Metropolitan Area has seen steady job growth for most of the last decade, with growth rates above the rest of the state and the U.S. Unfortunately, this trend has already begun to turn, and that trend will continue. Economist Bill LaFayette, the owner of Regionomics a leading local economic consulting organization, forecasts growth of 1.2% this year, which represents an increase of about 13,000 jobs. Dr. LaFayette notes this is the weakest forecast in a decade.
Much of the slowing in hiring will result from the shrinking of the workforce. There are simply not enough available workers to meet the demand. Dr. Lafayette notes the population of Columbus is not growing as fast as the jobs. The demand for workers in the skilled trades is already outstripping the supply of skilled workers. The result is a slowdown in construction projects and the loss of opportunities for growth.
Jobs will continue to be lost to automation, but the rate will be less than many expect. One thing is clear, no one really knows what the real impact of automation on jobs will be. You have probably seen the headlines like the one in USA Today, heralding “Automation could kill 73 million U.S. jobs by 2030”. Others have been much more conservative in their projections, as Forbes magazine reports, “Rather than automated job loss getting worse in the future, the economy might be getting progressively better at helping workers find new jobs after being replaced by technology. Technology is increasing the number of high-skill jobs and better utilizing latent creative abilities that otherwise were wasted before routine jobs were automated.”
Which of these disparate views is true? Only time will tell, but we do know the use of automation and artificial intelligence will continue to grow. We cannot sit back and wait to see what happens.
We believe the impact will be less than the pessimistic predictions offered by many. The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) reports that, on average across the 21 OECD countries, 9 % of jobs are automatable. We also recognize the automation of some jobs will result in new opportunities in higher-paying fields. The key to being displaced or benefitting from new jobs and skills often lies in the preparedness of the individual.
Increased attention will be given to finding more employees in the building and construction trades. More employees are already needed in these fields, but recruiting new individuals to enter these challenging occupations can be difficult. In Columbus, we have excellent apprenticeship programs in the electrical, plumbing, and other trades, but the need for workers exceeds the enrollment in these programs.
To address this, programs such as the Building Futures pre-apprenticeship program seek to recruit new candidates to these fields. It focuses on unemployed and under employed people who want to take an opportunity for a path to the middle class.
Initiatives such as this are needed throughout the country to prepare a more employable workforce to help maintain economic growth.
Even though skilled workers are harder to find, it will not result in major wage increases. You might expect the law of supply and demand to cause increases in wages, but this does not appesar to be happening to a major degree. Employers remain hesitant to increase wages, and decreased membership in unions has reduced the demands for better pay.
While the federal government is unlikely to raise the minimum wage, state and local governments will. The federal minimum wage has not increased since July 2009. As a result, the real value of that amount has decreased from $7.25 to less than $6.19. The resulting impact on minimum wage employees and their families is devastating.
To counter this, CNBC reports more than 20 states are slated to raise their minimum wages in 2019. We believe this trend will grow during the year, with more local governments moving toward a living wage for employees.
Do you agree with our look at these trends or have others you would like to suggest? Contact us and let us know what you think. In two weeks, we will look at more trends impacting labor, management, and the workplace.
In the meantime, check out our first Quick Takes video of 2019. It deals with placing time limits on items on a meeting agenda (Spoiler Alert: We do not recommend doing it!). Take a look at the video for our reasons why. It’s part of our series on Effective Meetings.