Fewer working-age people may slow economy. Will it lift pay?

As America’s job market rebounds and the need for workers intensifies, employers will likely have little chance to relax.

Labor shortages will likely persist for years after the fast-reopening economy shakes off its growing pains.

Consider that the number of working age people did something last year it had never done in the history of the United States: It shrank. A continuing drop in that population, or even a tepid increase, would pose a problem for the economy.

A healthy expansion has always depended on robust population growth. Still, fewer people of working age would likely compel companies to compete harder to hire and retain employees. And that would mean higher wages.