Worker shortage feared for state

May 2, 2007
Reported by Associated Press

Louisiana business leaders are being warned of soaring wages in coming years as companies compete for a falling supply of available, qualified workers.

While workers will, no doubt, welcome the higher pay, experts say the state's economy could be seriously hampered unless the problem is addressed.

Economist Loren Scott says a major contributing factor can't be easily addressed.  He says population shifts will begin creating significant labor market gaps as the number of adults entering the state's work force over the next few decades won't keep pace with aging baby boomers going into retirement.

But experts have raised other educational and socio-economic issues that they hope will bridge the gap.  Chief among them was the state's school dropout rate.

Fran Gladden, deputy secretary of the state Department of Economic Development, cites research showing that 37 percent of Louisiana children don't complete high school.

He says the state must do a better job in counseling students on their opportunities, especially those who don't attend college.