These Are the Hardest Jobs to Fill Right Now

Demand is outpacing supply for home health aides, software developers, truck drivers

By Roy Maurer Feb 28, 2018
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​There aren't enough workers to meet the demand for certain jobs in construction, health care and technology this year, according to a new report from CareerCast.

The job site's report on the 10 toughest jobs to fill in the U.S. in 2018 is based on Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasts, trade and professional association data, graduation rates, and CareerCast's database of job listings.

Application software developers will be the hardest position to fill, with more than a quarter of a million vacancies projected by 2026. The Bureau of Labor Statistics also predicts that an additional 777,600 personal care aides and 150,400 construction workers will be needed over the next eight years.

"The results are an interesting mix," said Kyle Kensing, online content editor for CareerCast. "Demand for IT and health care makes sense. Those are two industries that represent cornerstones of the economy and managed to stay strong through the recession and during the recovery years since. But you also see industries like construction and truck driving that were heavily hit by the recession making a comeback."

Five of the top 10 talent gaps will occur in health care, ranging from lower paid positions, such as home health aides and personal care aides, to highly skilled nurse practitioners. A need for more cybersecurity and finance professionals is also forecast.

The top 10 most in-demand positions in 2018 are projected to be:

  • Application software developer.
  • Construction laborer.
  • Financial advisor.
  • Home health aide.
  • Information security analyst.
  • Medical services manager.
  • Nurse practitioner.
  • Personal care aide.
  • Physical therapist.
  • Truck driver.

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What's Driving Demand?

Factors pushing demand vary and include a shortage of qualified candidates with specialized skills, a lack of new graduates in some professions, and rapid industry expansion.

The growth outlook for home health aides, for example, is nearly 50 percent over the next eight years, and the number of application software developers is projected to increase by 30 percent in that time, Kensing said.

"In IT and health care, we are experiencing epochal shifts that are driving up demand for these professions," said Josh Wright, chief economist for talent acquisition system platform iCIMS, based in Matawan, N.J. "For IT-related professions, this is due to the rapid advances in information technologies and how quickly they are spreading across different industries. For health care, the key factor is the aging population, which is itself a reflection of advances in health care. Since both professions require substantial training, there's a lag between the rise in demand and the rise in supply."

The shortage of home health and personal care workers is fueled by low wages and demanding duties. "Depending on what you are called on to do, you have to be a jack-of-all-trades in terms of basic health care knowledge, and the pay [at around $20,000 annually] is extraordinarily low," Kensing said. "But as need rises, wages will increase as well, especially as people continue to have more access to these types of health care options."

The findings also show strong growth for nurse practitioners and physical therapists, jobs that pay much better. The American Physical Therapy Association has forecast shortages in the profession but noted that the overriding challenge is not hiring new therapists but retaining current workers.

The aging Baby Boomer generation is also driving up demand for financial planning as more Boomers approach retirement, Kensing said.

"For construction, the story is less certain, but given the aging of the construction workforce, young people are evidently less interested in joining it," Wright said. "In an age when technology is both glamorized and increasingly pervasive in young people's lives, working with your hands likely seems both less familiar and less attractive."

Kensing added that construction laborers are in high demand as a result of skills gaps. The Commercial Construction Index reported that 60 percent of contractors had greater need for skilled laborers than applicants to fill those jobs.

"As the economy improves, there are more building startups," Kensing said. "Not only is there a need to fill immediately open positions, but the industry is still playing catch-up for the positions that were lost during the economic downturn. People left for other lines of work and maybe fell behind on certain certifications."

The truck driver shortage started to become evident as trucking volumes began to increase again in 2011 during the recovery from the Great Recession, explained Bob Costello, chief economist and senior vice president at the American Trucking Associations (ATA), a trade group representing the trucking industry, based in Arlington, Va. "The driver market continued to tighten, and the shortage skyrocketed to roughly 45,000 by 2015," he said.

One of the prime reasons for this is the relatively high average age of the existing workforce, Costello said. According to surveys by the ATA, the average driver age is 49. Additionally, the industry has historically struggled to attract women, as just 6 percent of truck drivers in 2016 were women.

Trucking employers also struggle to find enough qualified drivers. "Many carriers, despite being short on drivers, are highly selective in hiring drivers because they have made safety and professionalism high priorities," he said.

The American Transportation Research Institute reported that if current trends hold, the trucking industry faces a shortage of over 175,000 drivers by 2026. To keep pace with retirements and turnover, the trucking industry will need to hire roughly 900,000 new drivers over the next decade.

"Replacing retiring truck drivers will be by far the largest factor, accounting for nearly half of new driver hires. The second largest factor will be industry growth, accounting for 28 percent of new driver hires," Costello said.

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