The Labor Department has released new projections of where the jobs of the future will be.
And to anyone who follows job-market news closely, the outlook is likely not a surprise: Many of them will be low-wage.
The department projected the fortunes of 818 occupations through the year 2022, predicting total employment growth for each as well as the total number of job openings that each will post over that decade. As it turns out, the jobs that are currently in the lowest quintile of annual wages are also projected to post the largest share of total openings over that period.
Note: Data exclude occupational categories for which the department does not provide wage data: actors, dancers, musicians and singers, and all other entertainers and performers including athletes and related workers.
That fantastic growth in lowest-quintile jobs is perhaps the most striking point in the chart – of the nearly 51 million jobs the nation will create from 2012 to 2022, nearly 21.1 million – or almost 42 percent– will be jobs that today earn the lowest annual wages. That bottom 20 percent includes jobs with 2012 median annual wages that run between about $18,300 and $28,600.
More subtle but also telling is that middle bar, which shows middle-quintile jobs and is projected to post the least job growth. That middle 20 percent of occupations is expected to account for just under 11 percent of all jobs over this decade. These middle-quintile jobs have median wages that currently run roughly between $37,100 and $48,500.
The data seem to confirm that recent trends in growth among middle- and lower-wage jobs will continue. As the National Employment Law Project found in 2012, middle-wage occupations accounted for 60 percent of Great Recession job losses, but at that time only made up 22 percent of recovery job growth. Meanwhile, the story was almost the opposite for lower-wage jobs, which made up 21 percent of Recession job losses but also accounted for 58 percent of job growth in the recovery. Another 2012 working paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research showed increasing job market "polarization," as the share of middle-skill jobs has declined over the last three decades while high- and low-skill jobs have posted stronger growth.
It's important, of course, to be clear about what these numbers show, which is that jobs that are currently low-wage will grow in the next 10 years. What the Labor Department's data can't tell you is how wages will change over that period. In addition, it's important to remember that the department is by no means perfect in its predictions. As Business Insider's Danny Vinik showed in December, the government's 2002-2012 predictions were in many cases well off the mark. Anyone hoping for a new middle-wage job over the next nine years may want to hope the department is far off this time as well.