Economists predict future local labor shortage

SAN DIEGO - Despite the enduring unemployment picture in the San Diego region, a growing number of economists believe a labor shortage may be in the region's future.

About one person in 10 in the region is out of work and hidden behind the numbers is a lurking reality.

"We're seeing a seismic shift in our labor markets," said economist Joe Cortright of the national group CEOs for Cities.

Cortright said there may be a labor shortage when the economy turns around.

"We're going to see a shortage of really educated workers," he said.

Cortright said the shortage would be created by retiring baby boomer, a plateau in college graduation rates and the rate of women entering the workforce.

The shortage will put San Diego against other cities when competing for attracting young, skilled workers.

"We know the biggest factor a company chooses when considering its location for growth is talent," said Lauree Sahba, the chief operating officer for the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation.

"Getting access to talented people will be the critical thing that determines which regions in the country do well economically," said Cortright.

However, there are signs San Diego may be losing ground in that respect. According to the research group Equinox Center, San Diego has not ranked in the top 15 in any recent listings of best places for young adults.

Phyllis Huckabee, the vice president of Human Resources at Quidel Corporation, is also a board member at the Equinox Center.

"I've actually had candidates say the vibe here isn't as good as the bay area or other places," said Huckabee.

Recent studies conducted by Cortright reveal that the San Diego sunshine will not be enough. About 70 percent of those aged 25 to 34 said they would look for a job in a place they want to live in. Less than 40 percent said they would look for the best job they could find, with the place as a secondary consideration.

According to other studies, young adults in San Diego and around the country are fleeing the suburbs in favor of urban areas such as downtown, which is growing twice as fast.

To address those trends, the Equinox Center held a forum in La Jolla on Wednesday made up of business and economic leaders to talk about what needs to be improved. Testimonials from young workers compiled by the Equinox Center said public transportation, walkable neighborhoods and affordable housing and living were among the most important factors to them.

10News and the Equinox Center have partnered to examine quality of life issues facing the region. Find out more about the Equinox Center and their projects by visiting www.equinoxcenter.org.

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