Tracking U.S. Labor Market Trends

As the sun rises on a new decade, government statisticians are projecting the creation of millions of new jobs in the next ten years, including positions in lower-paid personal-service occupations, but also more lucrative jobs in health-related and technical fields. If the past is any predictor of future conditions, foreign workers are likely to benefit from these increased opportunities, whenever the domestic labor supply is insufficient to handle the new demands in the marketplace.

As National Public Radio (NPR) recently reported, the United States has lost more than 7 million jobs during the recession that began two years ago. [See Where The Jobs Will Be In The Next Decade, by John Ydstie, 04.Jan.2010, National Public Radio.] The NPR story quoted Harvard labor economist, Lawrence Katz, saying it may take five years or more just to recover the jobs lost during this recession, but nonetheless predicting that in the coming decade, the U.S. economy will recover and add 15 million new jobs, with strong job growth concentrated at the high and low ends of the labor market. Katz told NPR that this trend is “worrisome,” and described it as a “polarization of the job market.”

The trend is expected to continue, according to Dixie Sommers, assistant commissioner of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), who was quoted in the article. Sommers provided NPR with a top-ten list of jobs that the BLS predicts to be the greatest sources of new employment in the coming decade. Although seven of the top ten growth areas were in low-wage occupations, the remaining three were in fields that provide high compensation to those with the requisite skills: registered nurses, accountants, and post-secondary teachers.

According to the BLS’s Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-2011 Edition, several high-skilled occupations are expected to grow, among them:

  • Information technology is expected to add 118,000 new jobs; data-processing, web hosting, and related services are expected to grow by 53 percent in ten years. Internet publishing and broadcasting, as well as software publishing, are likewise expected to grow.
  • Professional, scientific and technical services are projected to add 2.7 million new jobs, including design and integration services for complex computer networks; management, scientific and technical consulting services are expected to grow by 83 percent.
  • Educational services are expected to generate 1.7 million new jobs over ten years, based on rising enrollments at all levels of education.
  • Healthcare and social assistance are expected to add 4 million new jobs in the coming decade. Taken together, healthcare and technical occupations will provide a projected 1.6 million new jobs, due to increasing demand for healthcare services.

[See Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-2011 Edition, Overview of the 2008-2018 Projections, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics].

Naturally, it is impossible to know for sure what the future holds, but it is reassuring to know that the labor economists at BLS are predicting eventual recovery and a return to job growth in high-tech and other high-skill occupations. One hopes that by the end of the decade, we also will have a host of new jobs in fields that are just emerging at the frontiers of technology and innovation – think of the internet boom of the late 90s – but this growth can only happen here if we keep our borders open and continue to welcome the best, most creative minds to the United States – another agenda item for the upcoming immigration reform debate.

Disclaimer: The information provided here is of a general nature and may not apply to any specific or particular circumstance. It is not to be construed as legal advice nor presumed indefinitely up to date.