Big and small employers alike created some 2.1 million jobs in the last year alone, averaging nearly 200,000 new jobs per month since December, according to the Department of Labor.
At that kind of breakneck pace, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) expects total employment across the country to grow by 13%, from 145.6 million jobs to 164.5 million, over the next 10 years.
So where will those 18 million-plus new jobs be?
"Almost all the job growth is from small and mid-sized companies," says Allan Schweyer, president of the Human Capital Institute, an employment researcher group based in Washington, D.C.
Through a variety of sources--from labor statistics to payroll executives--we've compiled a list of 10 of the hottest industries for job growth in the years ahead. Some, like computer systems designers, are pretty obvious; others, like truck drivers, may be a surprise.
In fact, while the long-term gains in the labor market are spread out among a wide variety of fields--from restaurants to retailers, hospitals to accounting firms--some industries are simply heating up faster than others.
That's because both the labor market and the labor force are changing, according to payroll, staffing and human resource executives.
Over the next 10 years or so, gradual shifts in the makeup of the population--the single most important factor in determining the size and composition of the labor force, according to the BLS--will not only effect who's working, but also where and why.
Take baby-boomers, for instance. While the U.S. population as a whole is expected to grow by over 23 million within the next decade, the cohort aged 55 to 64 will increase by a third, or about 10.4 million people--more than any other age group. By comparison, the number of 16- to 24-year-olds will grow by just 2.9%, while 35- to 44-year-olds are expected to decline.
As the population gets older and lives longer--soon becoming the wealthiest group of retirees in history--job opportunities across several sectors will no doubt expand. But a few, including healthcare, arts, entertainment and recreation, and financial services, which cater to both the needs and desires of a retirement-age generation with money to spend, are projected to grow by leaps and bounds.
"We'll see small businesses growing around all of this," says Michael Alter, president of SurePayroll, a Chicago-based online payroll firm.
But the population isn't just getting older. It's also growing. Despite recent wrangling over the nation's immigration and foreign worker policies, minorities and immigrants will have changed the face of the U.S. worker considerably by 2014, creating a larger and far more diverse labor force.
Also, the number of women either working or looking for jobs will grow by 10.9%, compared to just 9% for men, according to the BLS. While men's share of the labor force is expected to shrink, from 53.6% to 53.2%, women's share will see a slight uptick, from 46.4% to 46.8%, the BLS reports.
All these factors, and more, will reconfigure consumer demand and other broad economic trends--perhaps the biggest being an ongoing shift from a goods-producing to service-providing economy. Of all those 18.9 million new jobs out there, a full 18.7 million fall under service-oriented industries, BLS figures show.
By contrast, employment in goods-producing industries, once the cornerstone of the American economy, has now been flat for over a quarter century, and is expected to decline by 0.4% over the next decade. One area that will stay strong, however, is construction. Sure, the housing market is cooling off; but as the population grows, so too will the need for single-family homes, co-ops, condos and apartments, along with a rising demand for office space.
Here's our list of the hottest job sectors in the coming decade:
With baby boomers getting older and living longer, jobs in the healthcare sector are projected to grow by 30.6% between 2004 and 2014--faster than any other industry--creating three out of every 10 new jobs in the U.S. within the next decade. Among those new jobs, the hottest will be home health aides, medical assistants, dental hygienists and assistants, and physical therapists.
"We already hear a lot about a shortage of nurses, but there's also a huge need in the non-clinical support areas of healthcare," says Rik Elliott, senior director of SMB sales at Spherion, a Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based nationwide placement firm.
Many private practice physicians are themselves small-business owners, says Elliot, and a longer list of patients will also see them hiring more administrative staff to handle scheduling, billing and general office management.
According to MonsterTRAK, an annual survey of the employment market by Monster.com, about 14% of all entry-level positions in the healthcare sector are in the Boston-Manchester, NH, region.
- Employment services
More jobs means a higher demand for staffing firms, says Sperion's Rik Elliott. By 2014, the professional and business services industry will have added 4.5 million new jobs to the economy, with two-thirds stemming from a growing need to manage, maintain and service those jobs and others. That's expected to make the employment services sector one of the economy's biggest job engines in the years ahead.
A greater need for placement agencies and temporary service firms--much of it coming from the expanding healthcare industry, which tends to hire more temporary and contract employees -- is also fueling the surge in growth of online job sites, such as Monster.com. According to Online Recruitment magazine, there are now more than 1,600 job sites operating in offices spread across North America--all looking for employment, recruitment, and placement specialists, along with administrators, managers and IT staff.
- Computer systems design and services
At work or at home, we rely on an ever-expanding network of information technology. That's why the job sector devoted to making it all work is expected to grow by 40% within the next decade. "We're now seeing that second wave of growth," says SurePayroll's Alter. "Small businesses have a big need to use technology, but not necessarily the folks on their staff to handle that."
Within this broad employment sector, the jobs most in demand will be network systems and data communications analysts, and computer software engineers for both applications and systems software.
Forget the dotcom bust: the rising demand for software publishers, Internet and broadcast producers, ISPs, and Web search portals just keeps growing at a double-digit pace that will create 364,000 new jobs by 2014--an expansion of 11.6%. Driving that growth are increased connection speeds and lower computer prices--as well as the rising technological capabilities of smaller firms, says Spherion's Elliott.
Of all the jobs in this broad sector, database administrators will be in the highest demand, the BLS says. According to MonsterTRAK, most of the entry-level jobs are already opening up in the San Francisco-Oakland/San Jose area.
- Arts, entertainment and recreation
Higher wages and more leisure time, along with a growing awareness of the health benefits of physical activity, is set to shift after-work spending into high gear within the next decade--whether it's on a movie, a workout or a weekend in Las Vegas. Likewise, employment in this broad sector is expected to grow by 17.1%, adding some 460,000 new jobs in the amusement, gambling and recreation sectors, among others.
- Transportation and warehousing
Manufacturers are already streamlining processes by focusing on core competencies, boosting demand for outside truck transportation and warehousing services. With long-haul rail services in decline, employment in this sector is expected to grow by 11.9%, or about 506,000 new jobs, by 2014.
Within this sector, there will be a surge in the number of job openings for truck drivers and freight, stock and material movers, the BLS says.
- Real estate
While the red-hot housing market cools off--though still growing at record levels--the nation's population growth is picking up speed. That's expected to push demand for housing to new heights in the years ahead, causing a 32.1% surge in jobs in the real estate sector.
But while the outlook remains strong, warns Alter, you'll have to act fast to get a piece of the action--whether it's as a traditional agent or broker, or servicing one of the growing number of real estate Websites.
Aging baby boomers are hitting their peak savings years and will be looking for more securities, commodity contracts and other financial investment services in the years ahead. That's expected to increase employment in this sector by 15.8%.
Partly as result of the recent Sarbanes-Oxley Act, there's an especially pressing demand for accountants, says Alter--even in the private small business sector, which doesn't fall under the act. "It's just sucking all the accountants out of the market," Alter says. Already, the Monster Employment Index for March 2006 showed strong recruitment activity in accounting, auditing and human resources.
- Public sector
A shifting of responsibilities from federal to state governments is fueling growth in public sector employment--from teachers to postal workers to public health nurses. By 2014, the number of public sector jobs is expected to jump by over 10%, reflecting a total of 23.8 million jobs.
While employment in most goods-producing industries is expected to decline in the near-term, the construction sector will continue to ride a growing demand for housing, roads, bridges and tunnels, increasing employment in this sector by 11.4% to about 7.8 million jobs by 2014.
Since February, the number of jobs in the construction sector--from builders to excavators--has already hit new highs for two consecutive months, according to Monster.com.
"Interest rates are going down and more and more people are looking for second homes or investment properties," says Elliott. "Anything to do with construction will be strong."
While many of these industries draw big players, many smaller firms are also in the game, or at the very least play a crucial supporting role, adds Elliott.
For first-time job-seekers, he admits working for big companies has advantages: "But smaller companies tend to be far more nimble with offering a caring, family-oriented environment." Beside, he says, it's far easier to be recognized for your skills in a smaller pond.
That's where most of the best opportunities will be. According to Carlos Gutierrez, the secretary of the U.S. Department of Commerce, small businesses are creating up to 80% of net new jobs every year, reflecting more than half of all private sector employment.
"It's easy to assume that this is an economy of large corporations," Gutierrez said in Washington on the opening day of this year's National Small Business Week. But it was small business owners, he said, that are "risking capital every day" in new ventures and ideas, and are keeping the economy--and jobs--growing.