Skip to main content Skip to Footer


US States: For richer, for poorer?

Winning the battle for talent and securing our standard of living.


Accenture’s latest public service research explores threats to standard of living and the actions governments can take to help ensure that effective labor markets secure the well-being of states, provinces and nations.

For this research, we analyzed the implications of demographic changes in 162 countries. We surveyed citizens, job seekers, employers and public employment service officials in the United States, as well as 10 other countries and the Canadian province of Ontario. We also conducted targeted surveys in 12 states.

For our US research, Accenture focused on this burning platform: States are engaged in a battle for the talent they need to power their economies. Unless the share of people working increases and those who are employed become significantly more productive, the standard of living 15 years from now will decline to what it was 15 years ago.

To secure growth in standard of living, states must identify innovative approaches to increase employment, increase workers’ productivity and ensure that people are maximizing the value of their talents in the workforce.


Accenture analyzed trends related to demography, workforce participation rates and productivity. Together, these factors add up to GDP per capita, used as the measure of standard of living.

Although Accenture’s standard of living model provides participation and productivity outcomes required to counter the impact of projected demographic headwinds, it does not offer insight into the most effective way of achieving these outcomes.

To that end, Accenture conducted four surveys—the Accenture Citizen Survey, the Accenture Job Seekers Survey, the Accenture Employers Survey and the Accenture Public Employment Services Officials Survey—in the United States, as well as 10 other countries.

We also conducted targeted surveys in California, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Texas and Washington.

Across the United States, citizens are very skeptical about government acting fast enough to meet future employment and skills challenges. Nearly three-quarters of US citizens surveyed (72 percent) expressed such doubts. Meanwhile, only 8 percent of US employers use government services extensively to find the skills they need—and nearly half (47 percent) do not use government services at all to find needed talent.

Only 11 percent of job seekers surveyed turn to the public employment system in their search for a job, while more than half (69 percent) of employment officials state that government is anticipating future skill needs to only a limited extent.


Accenture’s research points to several factors affecting participation and productivity growth rates that further threaten the standard of living in the United States:

  • Disconnect between employers and job seekers. Employers cannot find the talent they need and job seekers cannot find the jobs they want.

  • Educational attainment projected to stop rising. For decades, rising educational attainment has been the key source of increased quality of talent in the US workforce. However, the long-term increase in high school and college graduation rates is forecast to end.1

  • Underutilized talents. In the Accenture 2014 College Graduate Employment Survey, nearly half (46 percent) of recent college graduates in the United States considered themselves underemployed and working in jobs that do not require their college degrees.2

The mismatch between talent demand and supply—combined with the underdevelopment and underutilization of talent—threatens the economic future of every family and state.

1. National Center of Education Statistics

2. Accenture 2014 College Graduate Employment Survey


Accenture’s analysis indicates that without change, the shrinking workforce and unreliable productivity growth rate could lead to a 9 percent decline in standard of living in the United States by 2030.

To win the battle for talent, states need strategies and tools that can increase workforce participation and accelerate productivity growth. Fortunately, both are available now.

To nurture high performing labor markets—and deliver public service for the future—Accenture recommends that states develop:

  • Real-time information and analytic insights on talent demand and supply. While national and annual labor market data is a starting place, states need dynamic, localized and up-to-date information to set strategy and direct investment to effective programs.

  • Talent supply pipelines. Talent supply pipelines can help employers (particularly small- to medium-sized businesses) source, recruit, train, place and retain talent.

  • Roadmaps showing pathways to jobs. Every job seeker should have a personalized roadmap showing pathways for putting their talents to work.

  • Unified talent agenda focused on one outcome—increased standard of living. States that succeed in unifying and aligning workforce-related programs will be better able to compete in the battle for talent.