The New York Times on Saturday ran a story about a worker shortage in Iowa,
including a deficit of specialists in advanced technology. Because of an
historically tepid economy and a reputation for being out in the middle of
nowhere, many of Iowa’s best and brightest young workers have ventured elsewhere
to make a living. As a result, skilled job seekers in Iowa are finding
themselves in hot demand.
Des Moines technology entrepreneur Steven Smith, for
example, says he spends 5 to 10 hours a week recruiting skilled staff. Smith
needs to expand his payroll from about 35 to 50, but it isn’t easy. "You’ve got
to work at it," says Smith. "They’re not just going to come to you." Greater Des
Moines alone faces a worker shortfall of 60,000 in the next decade.
One of the key
reasons for the skilled worker shortage is Iowa’s lower salaries, which has the
effect of both bringing new employers to Iowa and driving local talent away. At
the same time, the story notes, Iowa’s population is aging — the state’s median
age is two years older than the country overall — and the weak housing market
is making it tougher for people to sell their homes if they want to relocate.
But for companies who need skilled technical talent, like Iowa’s burgeoning
insurance and financial services industries, the shortage is forcing employers
to give promotions to their current staff and add amenities, like fitness
The story says Iowa’s situation may be a harbinger
for the rest of the country. According to labor economists Anthony P. Carnevale
and Donna M. Desrochers, because of baby boomer retirements and more job
creation, the U.S. could face a worker shortage as high as 14 million by the
Full disclosure: B.A., University of Iowa, 1967.