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What’s the “Next Big Thing” in the Job Market?

In 1999, 70% of workers considered it a good time to be looking for a quality job. Only 12% believed that in 2009.

Similarly, 64% were confident in 1999 that they could find a new job as good as or better than their previous job, while only 20% believe that today.

Adding to the stress of a painful recession, it also turns out that forecasting the fastest growing occupations over 10 years has proven to be an inexact science.  Many job seekers who took the advice of career planners have found  themselves stuck in jobs that have been stagnant if not significantly reduced in demand.  Unlike just a decade ago, job seekers are taking such projections with a grain of salt.

That’s because the projections released from 1998 through 2008 were mostly wrong. The data shows how difficult it is to predict which occupations will “boom” over the coming decade. For example, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics forecast in 1998 that 439,000 new jobs would be created for computer support specialist. In reality, only 10,000 jobs were created. While health care jobs were certainly that little engine that could during the first decade of the 21st century, personal care and home health aides didn’t fare so well.  While 433,000 new jobs were predicted, only 71,000 jobs were created. Being a systems analyst was possibly the worst place to be at least in the technology sector.  While the system analyst was projected to be the hot job of the 21st century, 85,000 jobs were cut instead of the 577,000 that were supposed to be created.

Those forecasts pale to the train-wreck in job creation for general manager and top executives jobs.  The BLS had projected an increase of 551,000 jobs between 1998 and 2008 when the actual economy had reduced the number of these positions by nearly 1.2 million.

The wrong projections aren’t necessarily always bad news. The BLS projected 323,000 new computer engineering jobs but missed the forecast by nearly 50% – over 611,000 new jobs were created. Medical assistants also experienced unanticipated growth when new jobs exceeded the projected number by 86,000 new jobs.

Predicting which occupations will experience the largest growth is very difficult. Job growth depends largely on macroeconomic trends and industry growth, which are difficult to forecast and can be derailed by an economic downturn.

For what it’s worth, the BLS did offer this job forecast in December 2009 for the years 2008-2018.  The following jobs are most likely to comprise a major source of employment and job growth over the next few years:

Registered nurses

  • Home health aides
  • Customer service representatives
  • Food preparation and serving workers
  • Personal and home care aides
  • Retail salespersons
  • Office clerks
  • Accountants and auditors
  • Nursing aides, orderlies, and attendants
  • Postsecondary teachers

Most of the occupations predicted to experience the largest job growth are ones that cannot be outsourced to other countries.

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  1. There’s a global demand for computer engineers. This is because they solve problems based upon applied mathematics, which is a global language itself.

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