The short-form answer to the question is: You Bet, at least for 57% of respondents to last week’s Feedback Poll. A minority of 43% file the question under the heading of non-Issue. To get some depth on the topic, we turned to Commentator Van Horn, who directs the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University. But Van Horn offers only cold comfort, in that he says the commercial real estate industry isn’t alone in its suffering.

(Watch our New Jersey page in October for Van Horn’s full comments and a fuller treatment of the talent issue.)

“The proportion of the response is typical. Labor market problems are not cyclical, they’re structural, and in a down market the problem gets only marginally worse.

“There’s a broad trend in the American workforce toward mismatches between the available skills in the labor supply and those that companies need. The labor shortage isn’t unique to commercial real estate or finance. It’s a common problem. And there are two reasons for it.

“The overriding, broad demographic reason is that there’s a shortage of available labor because the Baby Boom Echo generation hasn’t fully come on line yet. There’s a trough in the supply of workers. In fact, if it wasn’t for immigrants, the US economy would actually show a net decline.

“The other thing is that, because of competition, globalization and lots of other reasons that all drive competition, companies are not really in a position to stack employees for when they’re needed or engage in a lot of front-end training while they’re still really sub-optimal performers.

“The companies that figure how to bring in people and retain them they will be more successful and they’ll be the companies that stay around longer.”

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