The U.S. Is Facing a Critical Skills Shortage, Reskilling Can Be Part of the Solution

April 19, 2018

We are in the midst of a widespread economic shift. Artificial intelligence, widening skills gaps, and the rise of independent workers will dramatically impact the way we work. Although meaningful change may feel like it’s a long ways off, a recent McKinsey report estimates 50% of today’s jobs are susceptible to artificial intelligence capabilities that are already in the market.

While these shifts are looming, there are proactive steps professionals can take to build the skills they need to succeed in what is being coined the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Using data from the LinkedIn Economic Graph, our new skills gaps analytics can identify and quantify skills gaps at scale to help professionals and employers plan for the future.

So what exactly is the data telling us? This may come as no surprise, but there’s a shortage of professionals with some of the most in-demand digital skills in the world right now, such as Python and Java development. What is surprising however, is that soft skills are in equally high demand as these technical skills and they’re facing the largest scarcity in the country. Equally as essential are basic digital literacy skills, which are also facing widespread shortages in some of the United States’ largest tech hubs including San Francisco, Seattle, Boston and New York City. Let’s dive deeper into what this means for you.

You’ve heard it before and we’ll say it again: soft skills matter. They’re often overlooked in today’s society, but are the skills that are least susceptible to artificial intelligence or robots. Some of the country’s fastest-growing roles - sales development, customer success, and customer experience roles - are largely soft skills-based. The U.S. is short 1.4 million professionals with soft skills, with communication as the #1 skill in demand in all 100 metros we analyzed. This could be detrimental to the economy as a whole as nearly every job is looking for professionals with these types of skills. The good news is we have LinkedIn Learning courses to help workers learn skills like communication, reasoning, and working in teams.

Basic digital literacy is critical for the modern workforce. And interestingly enough, professionals with these skills are distributed across the U.S., but they’re still in high demand in cities deemed to be on the “cutting edge” of today’s economy such as Washington, D.C., San Francisco and New York, all of which are facing a shortage of professionals with these skills. However, our data shows that there are many major cities with intense surpluses - like Detroit, Miami and Atlanta - meaning these professionals may want to relocate to cities where their skills are needed. As the shift to jobs and companies that rely heavily on digital skills continues, professionals should consider taking courses that teach them skills like Microsoft Office, email, and typing.

While a popular job, software development skills are facing a shortage. In an increasingly digital jobs landscape, digital skills are critical to continued growth, and the U.S. short 472K professionals with software development skills like software, performance tuning, and SQL. That gap is gradually getting larger, and as this shortage grows we’ll start to run out of workers to fill these jobs. To give you a sense for how dire this shortage could potentially be, there are nearly 850K open roles in the U.S. looking for professionals with these skills right now.

What we know from skills gaps analytics is that things are changing. As technology transforms the economy, many individuals will need to not just learn, but re-learn new skills in order to remain competitive. We are moving towards a more digital world, but that doesn’t mean a human touch will become obsolete.

Professionals should leverage these insights to put themselves in the best position possible.  Companies can use them to identify the fastest-growing roles are in their organization, understand the aggregate skills in their workforce, pinpoint the gaps, and provide the appropriate learning and development tools to close them. Through insights like Skills Gap Analytics, the jobs available on LinkedIn to tools like LinkedIn Learning, we’re helping professionals and organizations do just that.  

Stay tuned for more insights from our skills gaps analytics. To learn more about how we analyze skills gaps, check out the Economic Graph blog. You can also watch the Economic Graph Forum: Quantifying Skills Gaps which covers the challenges and opportunity of using new forms of labor market data to quantify and understand skills gaps—and inform action.


This analysis was done using LinkedIn’s skills gap analytics. To learn more about this methodology, visit the Economic Graph blog. Companies hiring for these skills were identified by analyzing companies that have hired professionals with these skills over the past 12 months. Jobs hiring for these skills were identified by analyzing current job openings looking for professionals with these skills.