The job market for the next decade: And the good news is…

In nearly 15 years writing this column, I’ve made many predictions – and I’m about to make another. But first, let’s be clear: these are predictions, not projections. Projections are made by economists, mathematicians, actuaries, and all sorts of technically skilled people who deal with mountains of reliable data, powerful software, intricate formulae, and proven methodologies. I, on the other hand, observe, try to connect dots, and always ask one of Albert Einstein’s favorite questions: “What’s going on here?”

People who make projections add things up. They deal with the visible. Very left-brained. I ask, what does it mean? What is it we might not initially see that’s there anyway? Does it make sense? Real right-brained stuff. Projections are analytical, and you can prove them out; predictions are interpretive, and you just have to be comfortable with them. Of note – and a not to those who project – we can predict based on projections much more reliably than the other way around, so (honestly) I need those guys to do their projections first. But at day’s end, I’m comfortable. And as it turns out, despite some clunkers on my part, I’ve been on target more than off. Cases in point: in 2007 I grossly underestimated the upcoming recession, but on the plus side I predicted (in December 2013) that we’d see 3,000,000 new jobs in 2014. How’d we do? The final number was 2.998 million. Nice, right? All in all, they say that when making decisions, if you’re right 51 percent of the time, you win. Same thing with predictions, I suppose, so I’m comfortable with what I’m about to offer.

Fifteen of the 30 fastest growing occupations in America pay at or above the median family income, offer favorable working conditions, and, because of their meteoric growth, have become “in-demand” jobs. Ten of these occupations are in healthcare and the other five work with software or data. And all but one will – get ready for this – favor the worker who brings to the table not only technical skills, but liberal arts and humanities disciplines. As for that one outlier – software developers – the advantage of some liberal arts background, most notably communication skills, is rapidly coming into play.

Isn’t this interesting? When looking for the patterns, I relied on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the U.S. Census Bureau, and a couple of really interesting current books which I will reference in upcoming articles. To ensure a broad perspective on this, I set the following criteria. The occupation had to: appear on BLS’ 30 fastest growing occupations list (current list projects 2016-2026); be growing at least three times as fast as the nationwide average of 7.4 percent; show a growth in raw numbers that I believe could be an underestimate by the BLS (this is where we go from projection to prediction); and pay at or above the median family income (in other words, one earner in the family could, theoretically, carry the family.)

Put all that together, and the picture we get is growth in good jobs, good working conditions, good income, geographical accessibility, and good prospects for the future. In fact, after much thought, I’m comfortable predicting that these 15 jobs will show greater growth and better pay than is now projected by the agencies that issue these lists.

Now, if you nodded at the obvious stuff (working conditionds, etc), but puzzled over the geography, here are more dots to connect. Referencing my column this past July 9, not only is our population growing and aging, we’re also becoming increasingly urban. Between 2015 and 2020, America’s population will grow by 11.78 million, while urban growth will climb 13.40 million. See the shift? Urban populations are growing not just organically; there’s a migration, too. So, as urban centers grow from 82.5 to 84.7 percent of our population in 2020, it will also create more dense job clusters. Let’s understand, too, that while our population is migrating to urban areas, urban centers are growing outward. In many places, what was once suburbia is now urban (Jersey City, Hoboken), exurbia is now suburbia, and rural areas are now well-developed exurbs.

I need more space for this (coming soon, I promise), but for now, here’s what physician assistants, nurse practitioners, physical therapists and assistants, occupational assistants, genetic counselors, health specialty and nursing instructors, sonographers, respiratory therapists, software developers, statisticians, mathematicians, information security and operations research analysts can all say to the government statisticians: “I’ll see your projections and I’ll raise you one.”

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