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Where the Jobs Are

By Bill Leonard  1/23/2009
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Everyone has heard about the doom and gloom of the global job market, and while bad economic news seems to arrive daily, some bright spots in an otherwise dismal job market remain.

According to the latest employment situation report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment in the health care industry increased by 32,000 jobs in December 2008 and was the only major private industry sector to add a significant number of jobs for the end of the year. The health care industry added more than 370,000 jobs in 2008, which surpassed all other private industry categories.

Top 10 ‘In-Demand’ Occupations

1. Registered nurses.

2. General and operations managers.

3. Physicians and surgeons.

4. Elementary school teachers.

5. Accountants and auditors.

6. Computer software engineers.

7. Sales representatives and managers.

8. Computer system analysts.

9. Management analysts.

10. Secondary school teachers.

* As listed by federal government Career Voyages web site.

Although demand for health care workers is strong at nearly every position, including managerial and administrative jobs, nursing outstrips all other occupations and is listed as the top “in-demand occupation” by the federal government’s Career Voyages web site. Career Voyages, a collaboration between the Department of Labor and Department of Education, features data on high growth in-demand professions and provides information on the skills, education and experience needed for these jobs.

In-Demand Occupations

The top three “in-demand” occupations listed by the web site are in the health care industry; operations managers (including health care managers) and physicians are just below registered nurses.

During 2008 the demand for nurses hit critical levels, but the shortage of qualified nurses is set to increase over the next seven years. BLS researchers predict that about 233,000 additional jobs will open for registered nurses each year through 2016, in addition to the 2.5 million existing positions. But statistics show that only about 200,000 candidates passed the registered nurse licensing exam in 2007, while thousands of nurses from the baby-boom generation approach retirement age.

The strength of the job market in the health care industry isn’t enough to offset the massive job losses in other sectors, such as finance, manufacturing and retail. However, demand for skilled workers in information technology and green and renewable energy industries could help to stabilize the job market as the need for qualified workers in those sectors should remain strong, recruiting and industry analysts predict.

Job posting statistics from, an online job board specializing in executive-level positions, revealed that jobs requiring an environmental planning or engineering background increased nearly 25 percent over the past year, and officials with the job site believe that the trend should continue into the second quarter of 2009.

A monthly recruiting survey conducted by ExecuNet, an online career networking service for executives, found in December 2008 that 40 percent of the respondents reported that they saw signs of rising demand for managerial talent—which was a strong increase compared to 26 percent of respondents from just a month earlier.

“Looking ahead to 2009, the search industry is cautiously optimistic that executive-level job growth will begin to rebound in the second half of the year,” said Mark Anderson, President of ExecuNet. “In the meantime, recruiters continue to report pockets of strong job growth in the health care, environmental and energy industries.”

Strong Demand for Teachers

Education should be another strong sector for employment, analysts agree. Qualified teachers at the elementary and secondary school levels will remain in high demand. Recruiters for public and private schools should find more qualified applicants for the job openings as well. Several recent surveys of job seekers revealed that most of the respondents (more than two-thirds in some surveys) said that they would consider teaching seriously as a career path.

“Whenever there is an economic downturn, we always see a jump in the number of people applying for openings as teachers,” said Nancy Slavin, director of recruitment and workforce planning for Chicago Public Schools. “Many people do consider teaching to be a ‘safe’ or stable career because qualified teachers and school administrators are always in demand, even during recessions.”

A Silver Lining

Many school recruiters, like Slavin, understand that the increased number of interested and qualified job applicants for teaching positions is a silver lining for the dark cloud of the troubled economy. Another silver lining to the economic downturn is that businesses will be looking for talented employees who can help employers become more competitive once the economy turns around.

“Hiring will be especially competitive and selective during 2009. Talented executives and managers will be in demand because global businesses under duress need creativity and expert management in order to survive and position themselves for recovery,” said Brian Sullivan, CEO of the executive search firm CTPartners. “Once the financial crisis abates and credit begins to ease up, there will be good opportunities in clean or green technology, health care, social media and infrastructure-related industries” such as highway construction, architecture and engineering.

When it comes to green technology, the hottest job prospects will be in areas like forestry, wind turbine manufacturing, solar energy research and development and environmental engineering, experts say. However the growth and intensity of the jobs market in green technology and renewable energy fields will depend heavily on the policies of the Obama administration and if Obama with the support of the new Congress will be able to enact tax incentives and provide government funding for green technology and renewable energy initiatives.

Bill Leonard is senior writer for SHRM Online.

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