WASHINGTON (Reuters) — United States workers with advanced skills in areas such as math, science and health care are growing more scarce, with a shortfall of 20 million adequately educated workers expected by 2020, according to a recent study.
"The United States has been under-producing workers with post-secondary education since the 1980s," researchers at Georgetown University's Center on Education and the Workforce said in the study. "Jobs will return, but not everyone will be ready for them."
They predicted that 65 per cent of the projected 165 million jobs in 2020 will require more than a high school diploma, up from 59 per cent in 2010.
Some employers have already complained about difficulty in finding the educated workers they need to fill available jobs, even with the unemployment rate at a lofty 7.6 per cent. The growing dearth of high-skilled workers could exacerbate income inequality in the U.S. as wages for those positions get bid up.
Many sectors that will experience the fastest growth also demand the most educated workforce, the researchers said.
Science, technology, engineering and math jobs will grow 26 per cent, according to their projections. These so-called STEM jobs require almost all workers to have post-high school education.
The health-care professional and technical field, which requires the same high level of education as STEM jobs, will outpace all other occupations with growth of 31 per cent.
"Over time, it is progressively difficult to increase the supply of workers with postsecondary education," the researchers said. "The result is an increasing labour shortage caused by the slowing pace of post-secondary attainment and the quickening pace of educational demand."
Of all jobs in 2020, 35 per cent will require at least a bachelor's degree, compared to 32 per cent in 2010. A lower proportion of jobs will be available to people with a high school education or less, according to the report.
"The highest job growth post-recession has been for holders with a bachelor's degree or better," the report said. This group also experienced fewer layoffs during the recession than those with only a high school diploma or less.
The researchers expect the total number of U.S. jobs to rise to 165 million in 2020 from 140 million in 2010, with the creation of 24 million new jobs and the refilling of 31 million positions that are being vacated, mostly by retiring baby boomers. The employment estimate is in line with other projections from both the government and the private sector.
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