Stop the Presses: New Employment Projections!

February 17th, 2012 at 12:44 am

Regulars here know that I love to dig into the BLS employment projections (who doesn’t?).   The Bureau recently published their latest projections, for 2010-20, which provide a look into the future of the job market…one that’s pretty reliable, at least in terms of the composition of employment.  That is, since they assume full employment, you can’t count so much on the predicted quantities here, but their track record on what kinds of jobs by industry and occupation is good.  Not perfect, of course…they can’t foresee technological changes, like the spread of websites like Travelocity, which did a number on their travel-agent predictions a few years back.

So, here are just a few highlights, but this is one of those moments where you’ll want to break out the chips and salsa and just stroll through these tables yourselves (which the Bureau makes awfully easy as they’re all collapsed into a few spreadsheets—I’m not announcing my candidacy, but if I were president, here’s an agency budget I’d add to).

Everybody Doesn’t Have to Be a Rocket Scientist

To hear policy makers go on about the alleged skills mismatch between what employers demand and what workers supply, you’d think all the new jobs are going to require at least a four-year degree.  But look at the list of the occupations expected to add the most jobs over the next decade, ranked in order of the number of jobs BLS predicts they’ll add (here are the top 15).

Source: BLS Employment Projections

For sure, there are jobs requiring college or more, including nurses (#1), teachers, and physicians.  But most do not.  The chart below just takes the first three occupations expected to add the most jobs and plots there educational composition as of 2010.  Nurses skew right but the others skew left.

Source: BLS Employment Projections

Now, before the skill freaks come after me, let me be very explicit: first, who’s to say that the skill demands for a food prep worker or cashier will be the same in 2020 as in 2010?  Skill requirements could go up or down.  Second, and more importantly, we’re often better off—and I include the worker herself in “we”—if people within these occupational categories have more skills and training.   As I’ve said before, a home health aide with an associate’s degree in gerontology studies is a better home health aide, one who adds more value, and one who should earn a higher wage.

But based on a lot of what we hear, I suspect the average guy or gal on the street would be surprised to see the occupations on that list.

Productivity Effects

I found this next figure awfully interesting as well.

It plots job growth by industry against output growth.   Thus, where each industry dot locates is a function of its productivity growth.

Dots in the upper right quadrant above the 45-degree line are industries with positive productivity growth expected to add jobs.  Those like information (publishing, broadcasting, telecom) or financial services are expected to add a lot more growth than jobs.  Those below the line, like health care and education, are big job creators, but are productivity constrained.  [Note: this isn’t an obviously bad thing—we could make our teachers a lot more “productive” by tripling class size.]

Then there are those industries in the upper left where output grows and employment shrinks.  They’re “too productive”–at least in terms of job creation.

Note that the Bureau predicts the loss of manufacturing jobs over the decade—actually, just 73,000 over 10 years, but what’s up with that?  It’s not worse trade outcomes: they predict goods’ exports will exceed imports.  It’s just a continuation of long-term trend—a trend that worsened in the 2000s, but has picked up a little steam in recent months.

Can policy change that result?  Perhaps some, but I wouldn’t expect that manufacturing dot to move too far to the right (i.e., towards much more employment growth).   But unlike some others, including one of my favorite economists out there, I think we should try.  The sector is important not just for job growth—though those are very important too—but for its contribution to R&D, productivity, and the ability to unwind our trade imbalances.

Next: some of BLS’s workforce predictions.  I know!…I can hardly wait either!

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8 comments in reply to "Stop the Presses: New Employment Projections!"

  1. stuhlmann says:

    Regarding the list of occupations expected to add jobs, I am not surprised at those related to health care. I am surprised by the retail sales persons, cashiers, and the bookkeeping people. I would expect Internet sales to put increasing pressure on bricks and mortar stores, reducing the need for cashiers and sales people. I would also expect better computers and accounting software to actually reduce the numbers of bookkeepers needed.


  2. comma1 says:

    Should we be concerned that half of the jobs on that list wouldn’t provide a livable wage anywhere on either coast of the country? It seems like this could either mean good things for the lower class or it could mean that we no longer have a middle class. Which is it?


    • Fred Donaldson says:

      BLS sometimes leaves out the “L.”

      I recently spoke to a young fellow who works at a pizza joint and has seven years similar experience, makes about $9 an hour, and has an MS in Mathematics.


    • Jeff Carter says:

      Wondering the same thing. A lot of those high growth jobs are not very good jobs – not just low wages, but I imagine some not so great with regard to benefits and working conditions either.

      College access is an attractive anti-poverty policy lever because (1) the jobs for those without college often do not pay enough to lift people out of poverty, and (2) those living in poverty have often been denied access to a decent education, perhaps over multiple generations.

      But – while it would be a better country if more people had the opportunity to go to and succeed in college, the reality is that not everyone can/will. I wish there was equal attention paid to improving wages and working conditions in these high growth, low skill industries – regardless of whether workers have a degree or not.


  3. Bumpa says:

    To replace a broken sewer line, the guy in the trench with the shovel is more important than the guy with the clip-board and the tie. Unfortunately, the guy with the clip-board doesn’t agree with that.


  4. NoPolitician says:

    I wouldn’t celebrate too much for the common man based on that list. Yes, there are some jobs that don’t require a college degree. But look at the list. Cashier? Customer Service Representative (isn’t that just a grade up from Cashier?) Retail Salespersons (isn’t that just a cashier who works on commission)? Fast food workers?

    The only potentially decent job from that list is Commercial Truck Driver – and that job probably isn’t going to be available to the run-of-the-mill inner city minority 20-something because of increased odds that he has been Terry-stopped (either for not making eye contact with the cop, or for making eye contact with the cop – cop gets to choose), frisked, and arrested for possession of marijuana, making hiring him a risk that employers won’t take.


  5. markg8 says:

    Manufacturing in the US is much more automated with robotics these days and it’s only going to get worse for job creation. And yeah, so many of these jobs cited above don’t pay a living wage. Unless or until somebody starts unionizing McDonalds and the home health care business that’s not likely to change.


  6. PeonInChief says:

    I don’t know of many hospitals that will hire an RN without a BA, and advancement opportunities for nurses with an AA are very small. In addition, many nursing positions now require a Master’s.

    But our economy is really awful if all we can produce are retail clerk jobs.


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