Career Trends for 2009

As layoffs soar, some industries are poised to add more jobs.

Standard practice is to apologize for daring to make predictions. But my previous annual predictions haven't been too bad, so I'm eager to proceed again with (measured) confidence.

If you're looking for a new job or career, I point to specific areas for likely job growth. If you're employed, knowing these trends will be valuable in your strategic planning for 2009 and beyond.

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1. Government grows, private sector shrinks.

President Obama and his appointees are united in their plans to increase the size of government, especially in mass transit, alternative energy, supervised economic rescues and regulation of financial markets, and education (Head Start, inner-city schools, community colleges). The growth will be in federal government; states and municipalities will have a harder time raising money.

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Career implications:

Likely hot jobs within the niches above include project analyst, program analyst, management analyst, accountant, economist and software engineer (especially those with a compliance background). Government moves slowly, so it can take many months to land a position.

Meanwhile, the private sector will shrink as a percentage of gross domestic product. For many workers, private-sector employment will be less desirable than government work because companies will tighten their belts further to respond to ever increasing global competition and impositions on business advocated by President Obama and the new Congress -- for example, increased taxes and regulations, mandated paid family leave and sick days, further jumps in the minimum wage, and increased legal rights for workers.

To attempt to cope, corporations will use cost-control measures that the government doesn't often use: continuing to trim positions and automate others, and either outsourcing remaining positions to offshore locations (when possible) or making them temporary or part-time with reduced benefits.

I predict that 2009 will see at least one well-known U.S. corporation move its domicile to a country with less-onerous mandates.

Shopping malls will provide a visual manifestation of the transfer of dollars from the private sector to the government: Closed stores will be replaced by government agencies. For example, cities such as Denton, Tex., Coral Springs, Fla., and High Point, N.C., have a satellite city hall in the mall.

2. Toxic spending is out, thrift is in.

Until recently, people proudly displayed their new SUV, their big house, even the designer label on their butt. But such purchases will increasingly be seen as emblematic of the spend-beyond-your-means lifestyle that is causing the U.S. economy to collapse. Also, ever more people will disparage conspicuous consumption as out of step with America's greener consciousness. So even when people can afford to spend big, they will more often buy more modestly.

Career implications:

Private-sector jobs and stock performance should be best in well-run businesses that provide essential consumer products and services, such as Procter & Gamble, H.J. Heinz and American Electric Power.

More people will shop at value retailers such as Wal-Mart, Target and, particularly,

Self-employment opportunities: Consignment businesses, ranging from clothing to computers to construction equipment, should thrive. Also, repairers should do well.

Consumer-product companies, including luxury brands, would be wise to develop value lines. Example: The upscale Patagonia Inc. should develop a People's Patagonia brand.

As consumers spend more carefully, they will rely on online reviews of vendors. So firms must make extra efforts to ensure customer satisfaction.

Low-cost vacationing will grow. That means more "staycations" (vacationing at home) and activism travel -- subsidized by a nonprofit, people get to vacation in exotic places while volunteering to help address some poverty-related problem. (For examples, see

3. Anxiety grows, which builds need for balms.

This year promises to be the most anxiety-creating year in recent memory: More jobs will be lost, with more job insecurity among the still employed. Dire warnings about climate change will continue. Plus, worsening Middle East tensions boost the chances of a terrorist attack on U.S. soil.

President Obama has promised to provide health insurance for the country's 45 million uninsured (plus the many more who will lose their jobs in 2009), so the same number of doctors, nurses, emergency rooms, operating rooms and the like will have to serve many more people. That will reduce the quality of health care. What's more, the tax base will shrink if the President keeps his promise to reduce taxes for 95% of Americans, further reducing funds available for health-care spending.

As a result, people will seek low-cost balms. And bosses -- indeed all employees -- should redouble efforts to reduce workplace stress.

Career implications:

The entertainment industry will be relatively robust. Yes, as in the Great Depression, the film industry will flourish, but so will the TV and video-game industries, as well as companies that facilitate low-cost hobbies. Examples of careers that might capitalize on the latter: marketer of community theater or developer of a Web site that sells knitting supplies.

Anxiety around the health-care system will boost new careers, such as:

  • Patient advocate. These squeaky wheels help patients navigate the labyrinthine and likely-to-change health-care system.
  • Wellness coach. Beyond yelling "five more pushups," they address drug and alcohol issues, nutrition, and stress management.
  • Boutique physician. These doctors limit their practice to a small number of patients who pay an annual fee for easy access.

Newspapers and magazines will offer fewer jobs paying a middle-class living. Many are folding, and the survivors will use ever more volunteer citizen journalists to save money while vastly increasing their number of reporters. Media jobs will be most plentiful in selling advertisements and in creating joint ventures, but few aspiring journalists salivate at those.

4. The Latino population is growing.

If the President keeps his promise, he will have, within his first 100 days in office, created a path to legal residency for the 12 million illegal immigrants currently in the U.S. This will likely spawn a new wave of legal and illegal immigration.

Career implications:

We'll see an increase in government jobs to process immigrant legalization and provide social services that are intended only for legal residents. There will also be increased demand for bilingual people, especially in the health-care, education, and criminal-justice systems.

Salaries in careers not requiring fluency in English -- for example, construction, landscaping, and cooking -- will decline.

5. Baby-boomers are retiring.

Boomers are approaching traditional retirement age. In an attempt to reduce their expenses while improving quality of life, many seniors will move to communities with good low-cost housing, warm weather, low crime and the intellectually stimulating environment provided by a local college.These cities fit the bill: Merced, Cal.; Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill, N.C.; Birmingham, Ala.; Athens, Ga.; Gainesville, Fla.; Charleston, S.C.; Asheville, N.C.; San Antonio, Tex.; Santa Fe, N.M.

Career implications:

Jobs will increase in those locales. For the self-employed who live in one of those cities, opportunities include rehabbing distressed or foreclosed small homes and condos that have few stairs. In all locales, consider careers that serve older people -- for example, sell insurance or senior housing.

Marty Nemko (bio) is a career coach and author of Cool Careers for Dummies.

Marty Nemko
Contributing Columnist,