Since the pandemic began, labor shortages have impacted every industry imaginable, including tech. In this Backstage Pass segment, recorded on Oct. 6, Fool contributors Brian Withers, Rachel Warren, and Demitri Kalogeropoulos share three companies that they think could benefit from these trends. 

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Brian Withers: We have about 21 minutes left. We got two questions. Feel free to drop questions in the queue. If you've got something that you are wondering about, we'll see if we can take a crack at it.

But I love that we're doing another labor-shortage news item, but this one's a little bit different. This one's cloud computing. Cloud computing has had the number of job openings double from 2017 to, I guess just most recently, the data was 2020, but to reach 775,000 openings.

I imagine if you check today, that number would be even higher. This is a massive growing market for engineers and people to understand cloud computing. The article was indicating that some companies may slow down their move to the cloud because of their lack of talent and people to be able to handle these new computing platforms.

I'm wondering, given this going on, is there a company that you think that may benefit from this situation? Rachel, why don't you take this one first?

Rachel Warren: Well, this is the company, we've talked about a lot about today. [laughs] Yeah, going with a household name on this, and that will be Apple (AAPL -1.22%). I don't know how much Apple directly benefits from this situation, but I think this is one of those stocks that presents a really great opportunity to invest in technology in a really diversified way. I mean, there's only so much one can say about Apple that investors don't already know.

But fantastic business, super diversified portfolio of products, always coming up with new ways to innovate, super strong balance sheet. All the things that as a long-term investor you want to look for in a stock. The most recent quarter was another record quarter for Apple, revenue was up 36% year over year.

The company generated $21 billion in operating cash flow. Being a dividend stock, it distributed just a little under $30 billion back to shareholders in the form of dividends. Just a really exceptional commitment to its dividend. I was actually looking because something I check for a lot when I'm evaluating stocks is OK, how has the stock performed, not maybe just over the last few months, but over the last several years?

Just looking now at Apple's stock, shares are trending nearly 400% higher than they were five years ago. If you compare that to the S&P 500's gains during the same period, that's around 100%. What is that, nearly three times that of the S&P 500 gained during the same period.

Definitely a market-beating stock. Definitely a stock you can buy and hold for a really long time. It's continuing to see most of its revenue still comes from iPhone sales. But services revenues are definitely catching up to that, more and more every quarter.

I think the fact that you have these product categories that are slowly but surely catching up shows that there's still so much market opportunity left. Yes, this is a great stock. I think this benefits from so many different situations. But cloud computing, job openings, I think that Apple's a good play if you want to benefit from that.

Demitri Kalogeropoulos: I like that pick, Rachel. My choice is going to sound similar. I'm looking at Microsoft (MSFT -1.27%) as being the company that could benefit from the situation. I also looked at this recent five-year chart and actually if you compare Apple and Microsoft in there, it's basically they look like they've been walking the same path that's about the same 400% return over the last five years compared to around 100% for the market.

But yeah, I think the situation is probably going to pinch smaller to medium to medium-large companies in the cloud computing space, but Microsoft is in a category of its own. They have a lot of cash, they've got a massive global portfolio, a lot of assets they can use to attract talent and keep those employees for longer. And there will be no real concern of the company taking a big hit on profit margins. 

Revenue in the most recent quarter was up, actually in the 12 months, because they just finished the fiscal year. The last 12 months, revenue is up 18% for Microsoft to $168 billion. Operating income was $30 billion. I had to triple-check that, which sounds fantastic, 18% of sales in operating earnings. Cash flow is another impressive number: $77 billion, up from $61 billion over the last 12 months from the previous 12 months.

I like that Microsoft is sending more of that cash toward shareholders and dividends and stock buybacks. But it's also going to give them a nice war chest that they can use when this battle over talent, and they they can win some of these employees and not really risk hurting the bottom line at all.

Withers: Yeah, Microsoft's a great way to play this as well. The Azure product helps people get to the cloud and hopefully take some of that burden off of companies that are trying to do this stuff in-house. For me, I was for sure somebody was going to say Cloudflare (NET -3.01%). That's kind of the business that they're in, is making getting your applications to the cloud easier. I've seen some customer stories on the Cloudflare website.

Cloudflare, by the way, ticker symbol, NET, they talk about being able to easily sign up for the software and then post their applications to the cloud and then instantly it's available around the world for all of their customers.

Pretty cool company, lots going on. There's no five-year chart because they just went public. They just had their IPO in late 2019. But since both of you brought up the share price appreciation, I'll share Cloudflare: [laughs] 641% over the last, not even 18 months.

Kalogeropoulos: Wow.

Withers: It's just incredible. It's a little pricey. I really like what these guys are doing. I bet if you bought a basket of Apple, Microsoft, and Cloudflare, five years from now you'd be pretty happy.