Career Guide 2005
A brightening labor market could make this the time to look for a new job
In all of the hot spots, the service sector led the way. From preparing fast food to teaching young children to reading X-rays, service jobs will dominate the economy, accounting for 96 percent of all net jobs added through 2012, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The two largest BLS occupational groups are also the fastest growing: professional and related workers, a group of jobs that require a high level of education, such as lawyers, architects, and social workers; and service occupations, a mixed bag with jobs ranging from janitors and fast-food workers to nursing aides and firefighters. The statistics show most job growth occurring at opposite ends of the education and earnings spectrum.
There's a simple explanation, says Massachusetts Institute of Technology economics Prof. Frank Levy: technology. He and Harvard Prof. Richard Murnane spell it out in their 2004 book, The New Division of Labor: How Computers Are Creating the Next Job Market. "Anything that can be automated will be," says Levy. And offshoring is just a component of that. If a job can be expressed in rules, it can probably be outsourced to a worker 10,000 miles away or done by a computer.
That puts jobs involving routine tasks--be they cognitive, like evaluating mortgage applications, or manual, like installing windshields on cars in auto assembly plants--at risk. The very jobs, in fact, that have traditionally occupied the center of the employment spectrum in terms of education and salary. "Roughly speaking, you're seeing this kind of hollowing out of the middle, with growth at the bottom and at the top of the skills spectrum," says Levy.
Computers are also radically altering the skills many jobs require. As late as the 1970s, auto mechanics could learn their trade by poking around under the hood, says Mary Hutchinson, executive director of the National Automotive Technicians Education Foundation. Because of the electronics aboard today's cars, which have 1,000 times the computing power of the Apollo moon mission, mechanics now need strong science and math skills, and often obtain them through programs at community colleges or similar schools. "It's a whole new world out there," says Hutchinson.
Intuition wins. The jobs of the future will be those requiring expert thinking, like doctors and chefs, and those involving complex communication, like managers and teachers. The intuitive knowledge involved in such work renders it impossible for today's computers or distant workers to perform. Blue-collar jobs that involve nonroutine tasks are also safe, says Levy: It will be a long time before a computer can safely pilot a delivery truck through a crowded intersection or clean an office building.
Or teach a class of 4-year-olds. That's why Patricia Turasz didn't worry when the FBI transferred her husband to Florida from Puerto Rico last year. "We knew Florida is in need of teachers. There's an abundance of jobs here." Next month, she'll start as a prekindergarten teacher at the Primrose School, a local outlet of a national private preschool chain.
Sharon Frank, who founded the Manatee County Primrose School with her husband, says she expects nearly all of the school's 186 student spots to be filled when it opens, and so far she's hired a director and 10 of the 20 or so teachers she expects to employ. "There's a huge demand for quality education programs in this area," says Frank. "We're already planning our second school."