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Growing Occupations, Shrinking Occupations

Posted by: Michael Mandel on February 09

As the job market decays, I’ve been pointing out that some industries have continued to do well. Now let’s take a slightly different cut—looking at occupations rather than industries.

Look at the table below, which reports on the year over year change for 22 large occupational classes. Obviously the healthcare-related occupations have done well, and so have the education-related occupations. (gains in personal care and service occupations are unanticipated, but may include some healthcare industry jobs).

It should be no surprise, too, that production occupations—mostly manufacturing—and construction occupations are plunging. So are architectural and engineering occupations, and sales.

But it’s interesting to see that management occupations are still up, while business and financial operations are close to flat, despite the problems in the financial sector.

Distressingly, there seems to be a lot of downside in certain professional occupations. Employment in computer and mathematical occupations is down, as is the number of biological, physical, and social scientists. And alas, employment in the classification “arts, design, entertainment, sports, and media occupations” is down by 5.4% over the past year.

percent change in thousand 
change of jobs
Healthcare support . 10.4% 318
Personal care and service  4.5% 205
Legal  4.3% 72
Education, training, and library 2.3% 194
Healthcare practitioner and technical 2.2% 166
Community and social services 1.6% 37
Management 1.4% 224
Building and grounds cleaning and maintenance -0.2% -10
Food preparation and serving -0.2% -16
Business and financial operations -0.3% -16
Installation, maintenance, and repair -0.4% -23
Protective service -0.5% -15
Life, physical, and social science -1.2% -16
Transportation and material moving -3.5% -305
Computer and mathematical -4.5% -163
Sales and related -4.9% -821
Arts, design, entertainment, sports, and media -5.4% -149
Architecture and engineering -5.4% -154
Office and administrative support -6.0% -1173
Farming, fishing, and forestry -8.8% -80
Production -12.9% -1181
Construction and extraction -14.2% -1266
Data: BLS

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Reader Comments

Joe Cushing

February 9, 2009 11:31 PM

Gee, I'm graduating this spring into a shrinking field. It would be interesting to see this broken down further though because not all finance positions are the same.


February 10, 2009 09:26 AM

Joe, If it makes you feel any better, most fields look like they're shrinking right now, even though you know in the long run that's not really so. I feel for you, though. My brother will be in potentially a similar position next year, graduating with a Master's degree in Economics. He's extremely bright and personable, and he's been turned down for dozens of internships because people want exactly the right match of grades, experience, computer skills, etc: they can cherry-pick based precisely on the background they're looking for right now.

Still, if you have to choose between that and the threat of losing a job that pays well in a shrinking field when you have a wife and 2 kids solely dependent on your income: it's easier to be the graduate, although it may not feel like that now.


February 10, 2009 09:50 AM

I was wondering as where you got these data

david foster

February 10, 2009 12:02 PM

The contrast between "healthcare support" (+10.4%) and "healthcare practitioner and technical" (+2.2%) is striking. Does "healthcare support" mainly mean administrative/clerical?

Joe Cushing

February 10, 2009 11:42 PM

Thanks CompEng. I'm sure things will turn around eventualy. I also have a job now, it's just not any where near my field. I got a 12.5% pay cut this week because my company ended weekend premium. On one hand I'm glad to have a job that provides positive cash flow after living expenses and student loan payments--even after the pay cut. On the other hand I'm ready to start a new carreer but don't see much oportunity now.

I've become more open to areas of finance I'd be interested in. I've re-entered the exploritory phase of job searching where I'm thinking about what type of carreer I'd want instead of just sticking to my origional ideas.


February 11, 2009 10:45 AM

Joe, that's probably a good idea. Early in your career, you're not in a place where a change in direction would necessarily involve a sizable pay cut. That's a big advantage when looking for jobs. Half the people I talk to are not quite where they thought their education and interests would take them.

When you have more experience, that's not the case. That's why a lot of the "retraining" crap PR going around rings so hollow with me: switching careers involves flushing a lot of experience down the toilet and taking a sizable pay cut under the best of circumstances. Thankfully when I've been laid off, the field itself has been healthy even after the dot-com bust, so the overall experience has worked out positively. Switching fields entirely, on the other hand, would have been very painful. At half the pay there are a ton of things I could do. At current pay, the list is much smaller. :)

But I digress. Finance as a whole is still a pretty big field. In any field that big, there's usually some opportunity as long as you look like you're a cut above the rest. It does take some time to find a company that's not in a hiring freeze, but it will come.
Pay cuts suck, and I'm sorry to hear about yours. But it does seem to be the direction the wind is blowing right now.

Joe Speetjens

February 16, 2009 04:28 PM

It is interesting to note that the two industries which actually add to the country's wealth, Farming,Fishing and Mining are at the botom of the list.

Thank you for your interest. This blog is no longer active.



Michael Mandel, BW's award-winning chief economist, provides his unique perspective on the hot economic issues of the day. From globalization to the future of work to the ups and downs of the financial markets, Mandel-named 2006 economic journalist of the year by the World Leadership Forum-offers cutting edge analysis and commentary.

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