An expanding economy and tight labor market will lead to increased labor costs for senior living operators this year, predict the authors of a new white paper from Argentum.

Average hourly wages in the industry are projected to increase 4% in 2019, up from 3.7% in 2018, according to “The 2019 Forecast Report: Workforce Trends.”

“This would represent the industry’s sixth consecutive year of accelerating wage growth, and the projected 2019 increase would be nearly four times stronger than the 1.1% gain posted in 2013,” the authors said.

The industry workforce is expected to expand by 1.8%, compared with an average annual job growth of 3.2% over the past 10 years. Nonetheless, Argentum said, workforce growth in the industry would be stronger than that of the overall economy.

Unfilled jobs likely will reach a record high this year, which means that employers in the fastest-growing industries, including healthcare and hospitality, may have to increase wage rates to attract the best workers. Challenges will vary by state, however.