Ever since the Great Recession, economic policy and job growth have featured prominently in public debates, but the 2016 presidential election gave fresh urgency to the question of jobs for the American middle class. One of the challenges is that the source of jobs is changing. The base of U.S. employment has been shifting under the influence of a number of forces – primarily technology, trade, and demographics.
The manufacturing industry, which once provided rich opportunities for workers who lacked a college degree, has been contracting as a share of total payrolls. The industries with growing shares require a different set of skills and provide different kinds of career tracks, so understanding how this composition is shifting is crucial for understanding the changing face of opportunity in America. Put another way, the puzzle of job growth is not just a question of which industries will be growing by how much but also of which occupations.

Key findings from the report include:

Increased Use of Technology in Manufacturing Drives Higher Demand for Computer- and Math-Focused Occupations

- The Manufacturing industry has been hiring a broader range of occupations types compared to retail trade and healthcare & social assistance.

- Occupations focused on computers and math constituted almost 10% of positions in manufacturing and professional & business services, but only 1% or less for healthcare and retail.

Part-time & Contingent Job Openings are Prevalent in the Retail & Healthcare Sectors

- The prevalence of part-time work was highest in the retail trade industry: 43%, compared to at most 18% among the others.

- The healthcare industry hired by far the largest proportion of contingent positions: 18%, compared to at most 4% among the others likely due to the fact certain employee’s hours in this field can vary with the demand for services.

White-Collar Positions Receive the Highest Volume of Applicants

- White-collar positions received substantially more applicants (up to 35 per open position), on average than the blue-collar and so-called pink-collar (service-oriented) positions (up to 21 per open position).

- Managerial positions in human resources and marketing received some of the largest numbers of applicants per open position, 75 and 57 respectively.