The voices of Urban Institute's researchers and staff
March 12, 2017

How jobseekers can benefit from employment data

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) releases a regular report with data useful not just for labor economists and researchers, but also for jobseekers. Every two years, BLS releases its employment projections, which identify how the US labor market is expected to change over the next 10 years. The bureau currently projects that nationally, employment will increase 6.5 percent, or about 9.8 million jobs. But employment conditions are not the same in every state. Not all occupations will grow at the same rate, and some will decline.

For those looking for jobs or thinking about changing jobs, and for young people entering the labor market, knowing what jobs are likely to grow, what workers in different occupations do, and what the jobs pay can help inform these life-shaping decisions.

What jobs are growing? And what does “growing” mean?

Which jobs are expected to grow, and how many more jobs might be created? Where should jobseekers focus their training and applications?

The BLS projections are presented in two ways: occupations expected to have the fastest growth, in terms of percentage change in employment, and occupations expected to have the most growth, in terms of adding the greatest number of employed workers. Looking at BLS data for the top 15 occupations in demand both ways provides a better picture of the jobs that are growing than using either method alone.

Projected job growth

 Health-related jobs will remain in big demand, no matter which list you consult. Ten of the 15 fastest-growing occupations (in percentage growth in employment) are in health and personal services, as are four of the occupations expected to have the most employment growth, including the top three growth jobs (personal care aides, registered nurses, and home health aides). Home health aides are on both lists.

Both high-wage and low-wage occupations are expected to grow. Eleven of the fastest-growing jobs (in percentage change in employment, on the left side of the chart) have wages above the national median of $35,540 in 2014 (noted with an asterisk *), led by physician assistants, nurse practitioners, and statisticians, all with wages over $80,000. 

But the other four fastest-growing jobs, all in health, pay below the median (physical therapist aide, home health aide, ambulance drivers and attendants, and occupational therapy aides).

The story is different when looking at the data for the occupations adding the greatest number of jobs (on the right side of the chart), with many more low-wage occupations on the list than high-wage occupations. Only 4 of the 15 occupations expected to add the most jobs have wages above the national median: software developers and general or operational managers, both with median annual earnings over $90,000, followed by accountants and auditors (about $65,000 a year) and registered nurses (about $67,000 a year). The other 11 occupations projected to add the most jobs have wages below the median.

It is important to understand which definition is being used when one reads about or hears about “growing jobs.”

Finding the right job

Lists like these are helpful in identifying occupations with good prospects, but workers need more real-life information to know what a job is like, what training is needed, and how to get hired. 

The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook provides information on hundreds of occupations, including entry-level education requirements, required work experience, principal duties, median pay, and the projected job outlook. The Occupational Information Network, or O*NET, provides detailed information about pay and employment, as well as information on tasks performed, technology skills needed, work activities, and knowledge, skills, and abilities needed.

Meanwhile, ongoing research on requirements of jobs that are in demand and on effective ways workers can prepare for those occupations will help inform people looking for jobs, just starting their careers, or switching careers.

People speak with potential employers at a job fair on September 13, 2016 in Hartford, Connecticut. Photo by John Moore/Getty Images.

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