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Important Labor Market Trends and Career Planning

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The labor market is changing rapidly. The faster rate of growth in the recent past reflects the entry of baby boomers to the labor force.

The economy is expected to continue generating jobs for workers at all levels of education and training, although average growth will be greater for occupations requiring a bachelor's degree or more education than for those requiring less training.

While many new jobs will be created, many more existing jobs will also be affected by changing technologies, new products and techniques, foreign trade, changing consumer preferences, and other factors. Almost everyone will be affected by these changes, and it is clear that some occupations will do better than others. Few jobs will remain the same, and many people will need to upgrade their skills, change jobs, or even change careers.

No one can be sure of what will happen in the future, but some trends in the labor market do give clues about what is likely to happen. When making decisions about your education or career, it is important to understand these trends and to make good choices based on this information. While a lot of labor market information is available, I have selected those issues I believe are most important for you to consider. Spend a little time going over each one.

Growth Rates Vary Among Occupational Groups

Growth rates are projected to be very different among the major occupational groups, resulting in a change in the structure of employment. In general, occupations that require a bachelor's degree or other postsecondary education or training are projected to have faster than average rates of employment growth. However, many occupations requiring less formal education or training also are projected to have above-average growth.

In addition to the growth rate, employment size is an important factor in determining the numerical change in an occupation. Many slower-growing occupations, some requiring little education and training and others having considerable educational requirements, are expected to add significant numbers of jobs primarily because of their large employment bases. As a result, the economy is projected to continue generating jobs for workers at all levels of education and training.

This section discusses the detailed occupations that are projected to grow the most rapidly in percentage terms, those with the largest numerical increases, and those with the largest employment declines. Finally, it presents the total number of job openings expected to occur during the projection period because growth in the economy and the net loss resulting from work who leave the labor force or transfer to other occupations.

The Labor Market Will Continue to Grow

From 1950 through 1980, the labor market doubled from million to 90 million nonfarm wage and hourly workers. More than half of this growth occurred in the 1970s, when 24 million new workers were absorbed by the labor market-a 29 percent increase. These were the years when baby boomers were entering the job market in large numbers. The 1980s saw rapid but modest growth rates, adding about 20 million workers.

Women also entered the labor force in much greater numbers during these years and stayed there longer. In 1950, only 30 percent of all women aged 35 to 44 were in the labor market; it had increased to 76.8 percent by 1992. Immigration during these years also increased the number of workers.

While it is not possible to know with certainty what the future holds, projections by the U.S. Department of Labor anticipated continuing increases in the size of our labor market.

Some Jobs Will Grow More Rapidly Than Others

While there will be growth in most occupations, some grow much more rapidly than others, and some will even decline. Obviously, occupations that are expected to grow quickly will offer many opportunities. Jobs with the fastest growth rates tend to require education and training beyond the high school level. The "upgrading" of skills is an important trend in our labor force because even entry-level jobs now typically require good academic skills as well as training beyond high school.

Most People Will Change Jobs and Careers

Young people tend to change jobs more frequently, but workers older than 25 will change jobs an average of eight or more times during their working lives. Most people will also change their careers-going from truck driver to teacher, for example four or more times during their working lives. And the trend in changing jobs and careers more often is increasing. Sometime these changes will not be anticipated or will occur in unpredictable ways. For these reasons, preparing now for your next job career change makes more sense than ever.

Most Jobs Require More Education

Back when factory jobs were plentiful, many people could get a good-paying factory job right out of high school. Today, intense competition exists for the few of these jobs.

While the labor market is projected to continue to grow rapidly, many of the new jobs it creates will differ from those in the past. You can clearly see this by reviewing the lists of rapidly growing jobs.

This trend is likely to accelerate in the years ahead, with more and more jobs requiring technical training or advanced education. A big part of the reason for this is the increasing use of technologies in many jobs, including the widespread of computers, automation, and other technologies. Even entry-level jobs typically held by high school graduates now often prefer some computer experience. This means that those employed now will need to continue their education to keep up with the changing technology that affects their jobs, and entry-level workers will need more education.

The projected demand for college graduates will remain, though some fields will do better than others. College graduates, on the average, earn much more than workers with only high school degree, and this earnings gap has widened over the years. But a four-year college degree is not essential in the labor market. Many of the rapidly growing jobs, for example, will require technical training that can be obtained in one or two years at a private vocational school or community college. Recent studies have shown that the additional cost of education or training is often paid back quickly in higher earnings. The increased earnings often last a lifetime, making a major difference in lifestyle. So consider investing in yourself and don't leave jobs that interest you if they require additional education.

Education and Earnings Are Related

While many of the fastest growing jobs require training beyond high school, there will be opportunities for people at all levels of education. While there is job growth in all or occupational groups, job growth will be fastest in groups hiring the highest levels of education-and these same groups have the highest earnings.

Occupations that require more education will generally grow faster than occupations with lower educational requirements.

Three of the fastest growing occupational groups are executive, administrative, and managerial; professional specialty; and technicians and related support occupations. Not surprisingly, these occupations usually require the highest levels of education and skill. These three major occupational groups, which represent a little more than one-fourth of total employment, are expected to account for about 40 percent of the increase in employment.

Many Openings Result from Turnover

While I have emphasized the increase in the size of the labor market and the many new jobs this will create, it is important to note that the majority of job openings result from the need to replace workers. Replacement openings occur as people leave occupations. Some change careers, while others are promoted to other positions. Still others stop working to return to school, assume household responsibilities, or retire.

Occupations with the most replacement openings tend to be large fields with low pay and status, low training requirements, and a high proportion of young and part-time workers. Cashiers, waiters and waitresses, and child-care workers are examples of jobs with high turnover rates.

Occupations with relatively few replacement openings usually have lengthy training requirements, a high proportion of prime working age, full-time workers, and provide high pay and status. Physical therapists, lawyers, and aircraft pilots are examples of workers who have generally spent several years acquiring training that may not be applicable to other occupations.

The Importance of Jobs in Small Business

In past years, most people worked for large employers, and many people conduct their career planning and job seeking as if this were still true. But according to government data, about 70 percent of private sector employment is now in businesses with fewer than 500 workers. The largest employers employ fewer workers than they did years ago, and most of the new jobs are being created by small employers. This means that you are now far more likely to work for a small employer than a large one.

Jobs with small employers tend to require more flexibility and more rapid adaptation to change. While large employers remain an important part of our economy, small employers have become increasingly important.

Additional Information on Labor Market Trends

Population and Regional Trends: Population trends affect employment opportunities in several ways. In the years to come, changes in the size and composition of the population will influence the demand for goods and services. For example, the population group aged 85 and over will grow about four times as fast as the total population, greatly increasing the demand for health services. Population changes also produce corresponding changes in the size and characteristics of the labor force.

The U.S. civilian non-institutional population, aged 16 and over, is expected to increase. However, even slower population growth rates will increase the demand for goods and services, as well as the demand for workers in many occupations and industries.

The age distribution will shift toward relatively fewer children and teenagers and a growing proportion of middle-aged and older people into the 21st Century.

Substantial creases in the number of Hispanics, Asians, and African Americans are anticipated, reflecting immigration and higher birth rate among African Americans and Hispanics. Substantial inflow of immigrants will continue to have significant implications for labor force. Immigrants tend to be of working age but with different educational and occupational backgrounds than the U.S. population as a whole.

Geographic shifts in the population alter the demand and the supply of workers in local job markets. Moreover, dominated by one or two industries, local job markets may be extremely sensitive to the economic conditions of those industries. For these and other reasons, local employment opportunities differ substantially.

The Labor Force Will Continue to Grow

Population is the single most important factor governing size and composition of the labor force, which includes people who are working or looking for work.

An Increasingly Diverse Workforce

America's workers will be an increasingly diverse group. White non-Hispanic men will make slightly smaller proportion of the workforce, while women and minorities will comprise a larger share than in the past. White non-Hispanics have historically been the largest component of work force, but their share has been dropping. White workers are projected to grow more slowly than African Americans, Asians, and others, but because of their size, whites will experience a steady numerical increase. ien Will Continue to Increase Their Participation in the (force

Women will continue to join the labor force in growing numbers.

More Workers Have (and Will Need) More Education

In recent years, the level of educational attainment of the labor force has risen dramatically. The trend toward higher educational attainment is expected to continue. Projected rates of employment growth are faster for occupations requiring higher levels of education or training than for those requiring less.

Three of the four fastest growing occupational groups will be executive, administrative, and managerial; professional specialty; and technicians and related support occupations. These occupations generally require the highest levels of education and skill, and will comprise an increasing proportion of new jobs. Office and factory automation, changes in consumer demand, and movement of production facilities to offshore locations are expected to cause employment to stagnate or decline in many occupations that require little formal education-apparel workers and textile machinery operators, for example. Opportunities for those who do not finish high school will be increasingly limited, and workers who are not literate may not even be considered for most jobs.

Those who do not complete high school and are employed are more likely to have low-paying jobs with little advancement potential, while workers in occupations requiring higher levels of education have higher incomes. In addition, many of the occupations projected to grow most rapidly.

Nevertheless, even slower-growing occupations that have large numbers of workers will provide many job openings because the need to replace workers who leave the labor force or transfer to other occupations account for most job openings. Consequently, workers with all levels of education and training will continue to be in demand, although advancement opportunities will generally be best for those with the most education and training.
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