Author BJ Hill takes us on a fantastic, fictional voyage into the possibilities of a not-too-distant tomorrow in the latest installment of What if … Worcester, the Sun’s serial glimpse into the future.
Worcester’s Long View Pays Off
Thanks to progressive immigration policies, Worcester is dodging a national labor shortage that is crippling similar cities.
WORCESTER, Feb. 19, 2034 — Friday, Feb. 24, will be Ron Gopinski’s 70th birthday. It will also be his last day of work at the Abbott-UMass Memorial Medical Center. After 32 years as an accounts representative in the purchasing department, Gopinski is enjoying the transition to retired life. For Abbott-UMass, his retirement marks a transition of a historical sort, as Gopinski is the hospital’s last full-time employee from the Baby Boomer generation.
Baby Boomers are defined as those born in the post-World War II years between 1946 and 1964. The generation comprised the largest percentage of the population, and the workforce, between approximately 1970 to 2025. But beginning in 2011, when the first of the Boomers turned 65 and began to retire, human resource departments around the country noticed a worrying trend: There were fewer qualified applicants applying for their jobs.
It wasn’t a matter of wages or education, they found, but rather the simple fact that there were less people from the succeeding generations, the Gen Xers and the Millennials, in the labor pool.
The effect has throttled companies of all sizes as they compete to find candidates to take their openings. But Worcester employers — notably the AbbVie-LakePharma companies and Coghlin GreenPower — enjoy a competitive advantage created by the city’s progressive views toward immigration earlier this century.
There was reason for optimism when it was announced that the unemployment rate in Massachusetts dropped below 3 percent for the first time since 2001. In metropolitan Worcester, the unemployment rate dropped to 2.8 percent in November, down 1.9 percent in a year.
In addition, last week the Associated Industries of Massachusetts announced that business confidence rose to its highest level since December 2004. Employer enthusiasm, AIM reported, “is also based upon a solid economic expansion during 2016 that most analysts believe will continue in a methodical manner through the first half of 2017.”
Despite the positive data there is reason for concern.