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The Job Market Ahead


The job market has been a bleak and sluggish thing for a good while now but the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in its occupational overview for the next eight years, provides some instructive - and some hopeful - forecasts. The BLS publishes an Occupational Outlook Handbook, an exhaustive guide to jobs in all sectors, including thorough job descriptions, training and education requirements, and statistic-driven projections that extend to 2018. A caveat: until economic recovery is firm and able to support long-term projections, trends are liable to deviate beyond the norm.

Another caveat: industry and employment indicators can be of great use, to students about to negotiate the workforce for the first time or to adults in the midst of a serious career change, but they are purely indicators. An industry or field may be pronounced on the decline but companies and institutions within may be healthy and competitive, not to mention adapting to the very cultural changes that prompted larger decline. Regardless of industry, one should keep in mind that it isn't just about the number of jobs available or created, it is about having the education and skills to qualify for available jobs.

Occupation Predictions

The BLS predicts that the occupations with the fastest growth will be: biomedical engineers, biochemists and biophysicists, network systems and data communications analysts, home health and personal care aides, financial examiners, medical scientists (with the exception of epidemiologists), physician assistants, medical assistants, dental assistants, physical therapist assistants and aides, dental hygienists, veterinarians, veterinary technologists and technicians, computer software engineers, self-enrichment education teachers, skin care specialists, athletic trainers, and compliance officers in certain fields. However, there are some occupations that may not grow at significant rates but are predicted to grow greater in number, including registered nurses, accountants and auditors, nursing aides, elementary and postsecondary teachers, management analysts, and computer software engineers.

Occupations predicted to decline are generally suffering from technological cannibalization. Automation is assuming many roles, particularly in production and office administration. Plant and factory jobs are on the decline, particularly in textiles and apparel, metals, plastics, and glass. The oil industry is shedding wellhead pumper and derrick operator jobs. Also down: file clerks, order clerks, and desktop publishers.

Location Trends

According to Gallop's Job Creation index, as well as many cultural barometers, 2009 saw job market conditions modestly improve, hovering now at somewhat stable albeit underwhelming percentages. Regionally, Gallup found the East and the South doing comparatively better than the Midwest and the West. CareerCast came to similar conclusions via a different methodology. Gallop's Job Creation Index is based on reported hiring and firing stats while CareerCast tracks online job postings. In 2009, CareerCast found the most job postings in the Northeast and the Southwest, with the Southeast following steadily behind; the Midwest and the West alternated in the bottom two regional spots.

Yet, regional numbers can be unfairly yoked to major industries in crisis or flux - the auto industry in the Midwest, the oil industry in the South, for example. It may helpful to narrow the focus even more. Long-term state-by-state predictions can be found at Projections Central ( and searched by keyword, occupation, and state. Current state predictions extend to the year 2016 but data will be updated in late 2010.

Money Magazine looked at jobless rates in places that ranked on their 100 Best Places to Live list. At the end of 2009, areas with jobless rates less than the national average were Cass County, Madison County, Platte County, and Sarpy County, all in Nebraska, as well as Dallas County (IA), Grafton County (NH), Dane County (WI), Boulder County (CO), Roanoke County (VA), and Saline County (AK). Looking at cities, The Milken Institute, an independent economic think tank, annually examines job sustenance and growth in both large and small metropolitan markets. In their 2009 rankings of best performing cities, Texas dominated the large market, with nine areas in the top 25: Austin-Round Rock (#1), Killen-Temple-Fort-Hood (#2), McAllen-Edinburg-Mission (#4), Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown (#5), San Antonio (#11), Forth-Worth-Arlington (#12), Dallas-Plano-Irving (#13), El Paso (#14), and Corpus Christi (#16). Louisiana and Washington had three cities in the top 25 while North Carolina and Colorado each had two: Lafayette, LA (#9), Baton Rouge, LA (#18), Shreveport-Bossier City, LA (#24), Olympia, WA (#7), Seattle-Bellevue-Everett, WA (#17), Tacoma, WA (#21), Durham, NC (#6), Raleigh-Cary, NC (#10), Greely, CO (#20), Fort-Collins-Loveland, CO (#22). Rounding out the top 25: Salt Lake City, UT (#3), Huntsville, AL (#8), Wichita, KS (#15), Tulsa, OK (#19), Little Rock-North Little Rock-Conway, AR (#23), and Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC, VA, MD, WV (#25). For full lists for both large and small metropolitan markets, visit the Milken Institute website.

  • The Guide to National Professional Certification Programs, Phillip A. Barnhart, HRD Press, 1997
  • Projections Central (
  • "No Euphoria on Main Street", Dennis Jacobe, Gallop Economic Monthly, January 7, 2010, (
  • Index 2009, Job Postings By Region (
  • "10 Best Places for Jobs" by Jessica Dickler,, from the editors of Money Magazine, December 30, 2009 (
  • "2009 Best Performing Cities", Milken Institute (

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