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July 1982, Vol. 105, No. 7
Shortages of machinists:
an evaluation of the information
Neal H. Rosenthal
Is there a shortage of machinists? Will machinists be in short supply in the future? Various studies offer conflicting answers that cannot be resolved with available data. However, an examination of Current Population Survey, Area Wage Survey, and other data can shed light on why the conflict exists. This article undertakes such an examination.
During the past few years many articles dealing with current and expected future shortages of machinists were published in national periodicals. Their basic conclusions are generally consistent: Employers currently are not able to hire as many skilled machinists as they would like; current training is not sufficient to alleviate shortages; and similar conditions have existed for some time. Concern about the future supply is also based on the expected decline in the number of 18- to 24-year old workers in the 1980s. However, different conclusions result from studies concerning technological change. They generally state that the need for manual labor in factories, especially highly skilled machinists, will be reduced significantly in the future.
Because of the different viewpoint of these studies, future supply-demand conditions for machinists are unclear. Furthermore, very little of the statistical information used to present both sides is based on "hard data." Most data are obtained from employers in surveys that have questionable reliability. Existing Federal programs do not collect data on shortages of workers in specific occupations; such data would be very expensive to collect and because of their complexity their reliability would be questionable. Also, information about future occupational shortages is very limited. Nevertheless, by summarizing and analyzing a wide variety of data, insights can be gained into the problems and issues.
This excerpt is from an article published in the July 1982 issue of the Monthly Labor Review. The full text of the article is available in Adobe Acrobat's Portable Document Format (PDF). See How to view a PDF file for more information.
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