Economic Forecasts

Where the Jobs Will Be

Demand for workers will stay strong and employers will be raising wages.

Good news for young workers: Job offers for qualified applicants will be on the rise in many industries in the face of retiring waves of baby boomers in coming years.

Starting in 2016, the number of retirees will outpace young labor entrants between the ages of 18 and 29 for the first time in memory and the gap will continue to expand every year for at least a decade. Immigrants and automation — yes, including robots — will help to pick up the slack, but not nearly enough.

The labor squeeze is also sure to boost wages: After years of sluggish pay growth of 2% or less, wages will climb 2.2% this year and nearly 3% in 2016. Employers will also spend more on training after a lengthy period of relative labor surpluses that allowed many of them to cherry-pick top workers. Some will also ease job criteria to get more applicants.

Among sectors looking to fill key jobs:

Health care: Nurse-practitioners (nurses with advanced degrees) and physician assistants top lists of health care workers most in demand. This year, for example, nurse-practitioner graduates in the U.S. will total about 750, only a fraction of the estimated 7,000 job openings. Others in demand include audiologists, physical therapists and dietitians, plus staff for outpatient services such as kidney dialysis and urgent care. Demand will pick up for the less skilled as well: medical transcriptionists and staff for doctors’ offices, dentists’ offices and elderly assisted living.

Technology: Technology workers will always be in demand, but employers are especially hunting for applications software developers, computer security analysts, database analysts and network administrators. Jobs in e-commerce will also proliferate as online shopping continues to expand.

Engineering: While engineers of all types are in demand, there’s a shortage of college graduates to fill specialty jobs in industrial, environmental, nuclear and aerospace engineering. While low oil prices have put a damper on petroleum-related jobs for now, demand will pick up.

Many other well-paying jobs are going begging. A variety of businesses are looking for financial analysts, event planners, salespeople and property managers. Transportation firms seek skilled workers, ranging from pilots to tugboat captains. Building contractors want crane and tower operators, ironworkers, brick masons, etc. Big demand, too, for auto mechanics and long-haul truckers. The recent pay raises announced by McDonald’s and Wal-Mart are a sure sign of a maturing labor market: As opportunities open up elsewhere, these low-paid and part-time jobs become difficult to keep staffed.

Job needs will vary by location, of course. For example, the strongest growth in health care employment will be in the South, the Southwest and Calif., big lures for retiring boomers. Demand for software developers will lead to double-digit hiring growth in Austin, Texas; Raleigh, N.C.; Provo, Utah; Nashville, Tenn.; and Madison, Wis.

To help fill future employment demand, Uncle Sam is priming the pump by expanding grants to firms with apprenticeship programs in high-growth fields. The Department of Labor is accepting applications from businesses through April 30. Go to www.dol.gov/apprenticeship for more information about the grants.

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