January 09, 2020


U.S. Chamber of Commerce CEO Tom Donohue said today in his 2020 State of American Business speech that worker shortages and the growing skills gap is an “urgent priority for states all over the country.”

Donohue also unveiled the Chamber’s new state-based Worker Availability Ratio to help businesses and public-sector leaders identify worker shortages. This index will help business owners “get a complete picture of their communities’ workforce strengths and weaknesses and tailor solutions accordingly.”

As of October 2019, the U.S. labor market continued to tighten and the Worker Availability Ratio fell to the lowest level recorded in the nearly 20-year history of the data series: 0.88, less than one available worker per job opening. The October ratio of 0.88 workers per job opening is down from the September ratio of 0.95 workers per available job. The monthly ratio has fallen from the record high of 7.99 in December 2010 and has averaged 2.84 over the history of the series since January 2001.

“This is just one reason we will be pushing hard for real immigration reform, so businesses can find the workers they need, when and where they need them,” said Donohue. “We are also driving solutions at the state and local level to ensure that workers have the right skills for available jobs.”

Donohue stressed solutions must be local. The Chamber Foundation’s Talent Pipeline Management (TPM) initiative helps business collaborate with education partners to create pathways to employment through targeted curriculum and training programs. Now in 29 states, TPM has helped businesses train the workers they need to propel their businesses forward.

One example of this is AE Electrical Solutions, which supplies sophisticated electrical designs and systems to industrial, commercial, and residential customers in Central Kentucky. AE Electrical saw a lack of qualified electricians, which hampered its ability to grow and thrive. John Phillips, the company’s CEO, partnered with TPM to gather and analyze the data on his workforce needs, and made a plan to address them.

“Businesses like John’s aren’t waiting for someone else to solve the problem—they’re leading the charge and getting the job done,” he said.

“We have a full slate of challenges and opportunities before us in the states that beg our attention, leadership, and engagement this year and beyond,” Donohue concluded.

Today’s event marked the 21st delivery of the annual address by Donohue, who has led the U.S. Chamber since 1997. The State of American Business event is the premier annual event on the debates, decisions, and disruptions facing the American business community across the U.S. and around the world.

The program includes the State of American Business address by CEO Thomas J. Donohue, and new this year, the speech will be followed by a Faces of Business fireside chat moderated by Chamber President Suzanne Clark and featuring Revolution Chairman and CEO Steve Case, and a panel of American entrepreneurs. The State of American Business draws top Washington influencers, policymakers, national media, and digital audiences worldwide. Demonstrating the depth and breadth of the Chamber’s advocacy across the U.S. and world, this year the event will feature watch parties and live interactions with chambers of commerce in five countries and seven states.

Donohue’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, are available online here. To watch the 2020 “State of American Business” address, please visit our website.