Last night I had dinner at Outback with my daughter, who often tells me that if she could do it over again — to which I always reply: Why can't you? — she would choose another college major instead of the one she chose the first time around. She's thinking about making a career change when the economy improves and feels that her options would be much greater if she had pursued another major. Given the current economy, what should she choose as her next major? Where will the jobs be?
In January of this year, National Public Radio (NPR) asked, “Where will the jobs be this decade?” For this story, NPR called on Harvard University Labor Economist Lawrence Katz, who said that just to regain the jobs we've lost will be a huge challenge. "We would need well over 300,000 [jobs] a month for four years in a row just to make up what we've lost in the last couple of years" since the recession began.
The total number of private sector jobs created from January through August is 763,000, and the government continues to cut jobs. More than half of these private sector jobs were created in March and April; since then, growth has been slow. So much for that four-year timetable.
Katz said he expects that during this decade, the U.S. economy eventually will create 15 million new jobs with unemployment falling to around 5 percent. The real question is what kind of jobs they'll be. Katz said, "The worrisome trend is something I've called the polarization of the labor market," which results in strong job growth of the high-paying jobs and the low paying jobs at both ends of the labor market, but less growth in the middle to replace the well-paying manufacturing jobs the U.S. is losing.
Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projections suggest that this basic trend will continue. The 10 occupations the BLS expects will provide the greatest numbers of new jobs over the next decade are:
- Registered nurses
- Home health aides
- Customer service representatives
- Food preparation and serving workers
- Personal and home care aides
- Retail salespersons
- Office clerks
- Nursing aides, orderlies, and attendants
- Postsecondary teachers
Six of the top seven fastest growing occupations are low-skill, low-wage jobs. But Katz thinks that by "professionalizing" some of these jobs — requiring more training that will make the individuals and services more valuable — some of them may begin to command higher salaries. Maybe. But that will take time, too much time to help many unemployed and under employed workers who desperately need help now.
While my daughter is pondering her next move, our Outback waiter, Brandon, is working his plan. He's pursuing his civil engineering degree (gave a thumbs up to Obama's announcement that he wants $50 billion to beef up infrastructure), and after he receives his degree, he's joining the United States Navy, which will pay for his education. He will be part of the Seabees, the Navy's Construction Battalions.
As he talked about becoming a civil engineer, Brandon rubbed his fingers and thumb together and said, "Big money."
Brandon, I hope you're right. We need some big-money-makers to pay the taxes that will fund this really big money infrastructure plan, which we can only hope is indeed spent on infrastructure and job creation. After all, that $800 billion 2009 economic stimulus package that was supposed to create thousands of jobs by funding infrastructure projects didn't live up to its hype. I really hope I'm not writing the same thing about this new plan six months from now. How much longer can we continue to throw money at projects that don't deliver the goods?
If you're thinking about a career change, you might want to steer clear of these industries that are projected never to recover.
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