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Bill Radke: Even though companies are beginning to hire again, there are still about five times as many people looking for work as there are jobs to fill. But what if I told you that by 2018, there could be more jobs than job seekers? Actually, what if our economics editor Chris Farrell told you that? Good morning, Chris.
Chris Farrell: Good morning, Bill.
Radke: It doesn’t sound right, Chris. What’s gotten into you?
Farrell: Well, I’ve been bitten by the demographic bug. Now, baby boomers are getting older. The oldest boomers will start getting Medicare next year.
Radke: Granted, but is that alone, Chris, enough to take us from not enough jobs to too many?
Farrell: Well according to two economists, Barry Bluestone, Mark Melnik and Northeastern University. Now, they use a very simple economic model: the economy is going to recover. And then they assume that older workers will continue to retire at their normal retirement age and we have no major change in immigration policy. And then they take into account that there’s a baby bust generation. So there’s going to be a gap of about 5 million jobs, 30 [percent] to 40 percent of the jobs that could be created from 2008 to 2018 could go begging.
Radke: Thirty [percent] to 40 percent, does that mean that wages then have to rise enough to lure grandma and grandpa back to work?
Farrell: Oh, you would think so, that’d be the smart thing to do, right? But companies hate paying more. Now, they could also change immigration policy, I don’t see that happening. You could do some more offshoring, you know, there are limits to that. No I think what they’re going to do is say to grandma and grandpa, we’re not going to pay you more, but we’re going to change your benefit policy. You know with young parents, we have maternity leave? When you have a grandchild born, we’ll give you leave.
Radke: Interesting. Now Chris, I could be wrong here, but I think of younger workers as being the innovators in our economy. Can our economy thrive with an older work force?
Farrell: Our economy can thrive and be even more productive. Look, this isn’t a story of no young workers — we’re going to have plenty of young workers and lots of immigrants that are hustling to make a better life for themselves and their children. But older workers have knowledge, they have experience, and they’re going to continue to share what they have learned over the years. And that’s going to help out as companies navigate business cycles and competition from other nations.
Radke: OK. Our wise, experienced yet dynamic economics editor, Chris Farrell. Thank you, Chris.
Farrell: Thanks a lot, Bill.
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