WASHINGTON U.S. workers with advanced skills in areas such as math, science and healthcare are growing more scarce, with a shortfall of 20 million adequately educated workers expected by 2020, a study released on Wednesday found.
"The United States has been under-producing workers with postsecondary 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 percent of the projected 165 million jobs in 2020 will require more than a high school diploma, up from 59 percent 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 percent. The growing dearth of high-skilled workers could exacerbate income inequality in the United States 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 percent, according to their projections. These so-called STEM jobs require almost all workers to have post-high school education.
The healthcare professional and technical field, which requires the same high level of education as STEM jobs, will outpace all other occupations with growth of 31 percent.
"Over time, it is progressively difficult to increase the supply of workers with postsecondary education," the researchers said. "The result is an increasing labor shortage caused by the slowing pace of postsecondary attainment and the quickening pace of educational demand."
Of all jobs in 2020, 35 percent will require at least a bachelor's degree, compared to 32 percent 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.
(Reporting by Paige Gance)