By the numbers – Is there really a shortage of PCAs? Here’s an analysis

Most of us who read Access Press have seen reports about a growing lack of personal care attendants (PCAs). Our Executive Director/Editor, […]

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Most of us who read Access Press have seen reports about a growing lack of personal care attendants (PCAs). Our Executive Director/Editor, Tim Benjamin, quite eloquently has written several compelling editorials about this apparent shortage of workers in PCA jobs in Minnesota labor market. He is not alone. Many others are voicing similar opinions. But are these reports and opinions accurate, reliable and credible? Are there fewer PCA workers available for the elderly and people with disabilities? Or is this perceived paucity something imagined by a vociferous few?

To answer these questions, let’s look at occupational data that is available from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) Labor Market Information Division (LMI). We will examine hourly wages, projected growth rates (2014-2024), projected number of job openings (2014-2024), and demand for PCAs. In short, we’ll be using up-to-date, available, highly reliable data to examine the supply and demand for workers in the PCA occupation. Not to confuse you but to clarify and expand your information, we’ll also briefly review United States occupational data that is available from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), an agency of the United States Department of Labor (USDOL). The DEED LMI Division is one of many state agencies that compile occupational data for the BLS.

Before getting into the substance I want you to know that for many years I performed work as a testifying vocational expert. I was asked what work people can perform and how much can they earn after injury after I evaluated and tested their skill. I conducted a lot of labor market research. What I’m about to describe and I hope explain clearly for you is work I comfortably performed and data upon which I testified for decades.

The USDOL uses the term PCAs, and gives this occupation a code using the standard occupational classification the department developed years ago. The USDOL coding system has become universal since many other countries use the same or similar codes for occupations. The code for PCAs is 39-9021.

Nationwide there are 1,369,230 PCA jobs. This doesn’t mean all these PCA jobs are occupied with workers; it means that many jobs exist. In Minnesota there are 65,740 PCA jobs. The median hourly wage (50th percentile) for PCAs in the United States is $10.09 as of May 2015. The median hourly wage for PCAs in Minnesota (updated to the first quarter 2016) is $11.26. (Minnesota uses a reliable formula to update wages every quarter).

DEED’s LMI Division performs more and deeper data analyses than just compiling and cataloguing hourly wages, which are known as occupational employment statistics. The heading for one of the most useful of these data analyses is occupations in demand, which ranks current demand for 498 occupations statewide and provides measures of long-term demand, growth rate and number of job openings, as well. Where does the occupation PCAs rank in these three categories?

• Current demand indicator: 4th of 498 occupations
• Projected growth rate (as a per cent): 7th of 498 occupations
• Projected job openings: 5th of 498 occupations

What’s useful to know about these rankings for PCAs? No other of the 499 occupations ranks in the top ten in all three categories. None. What does that finding mean?

• There is a very high demand for PCA workers in Minnesota
• Projected growth rate over the period 2014-2024 isvery high (25.8 percent)
• Projected number of job openings 2014-2024 is very high (21,700)

If the current very high demand for PCAs remains very high (more than likely with the coming “Silver Tsunami” of aging Baby Boomers), and the projected growth obtains in the near future, then we are going to see not just a shortage of PCAs but rather an extreme scarcity which, if no substantive action occurs, will result in a social calamity. Think about it. That is my finding, opinion based on data resources and forecast.

Now let’s ask ourselves – and for me – ask the data, why isn’t this very high demand for PCA workers being met? We know that there is not enough supply (of PCAs) to meet the current demand (demand = people who require the services of PCAs). Are we able to identify the variable or factor that appears to be stalling growth and shrinking the supply of workers in the PCA occupation? In the fourth paragraph above I cited the median (50th percentile) hourly wage of $11.26 for PCAs in Minnesota. The OID data also provides the 25th percentile hourly wage for the 498 occupations listed and below I’ve identified where PCAs rank among all 498 occupations identified in the occupations in demand data. The 25th percentile hourly wage is $10.32. The Median Hourly Wage (Minnesota) is 471st of 498 Occupations.

At this point, I don’t have data regarding the annual turnover rate for PCAs but I believe that hourly wages are the problem. I will assert here that based upon data examined to date, the entirety of anecdotal evidence I have seen, read and heard is accurate to wit: There exists in Minnesota now and likely into the near future an extreme shortage of PCAs to meet the current and future very high demand for these services. Moreover, it is more than likely that workers who could be trained to work as PCAs are choosing to not enter this occupation.

Comments are invited. The data cited can be viewed at

Dick VanWagner is a member of the Access Press Board of Directors. He holds a master’s degree and is a diplomat, American Board of Vocational Experts.




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