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The Latest Data on Hard-to-fill Occupations

October 16, 2009 by Joshua Wright

A recent article published by the Community College Times chronicles how, despite the weak labor market, there are many high-skill occupations that employers are having difficulty filling with properly trained workers. These include jobs inside the health care, energy, and engineering fields.

It’s become especially hard to find accountants, health care workers, software sales representatives, actuaries, data analysts, physical therapists and electrical engineers, labor analysts say. And employers that demand highly specialized training—like biotech firms that need plant scientists or energy companies that need geotechnical engineers to build offshore platforms—struggle even more to fill jobs.

The trend has been intensified by the speed of the job market decline, Koropeckyj said. The nation has lost a net 7.6 million jobs since the recession began in December 2007. Yet it can take a year or more for a laid-off worker to gain the training and education to switch industries. That means health care jobs are going unfilled even as laid-off workers in the auto, construction or financial services industries seek work.

We thought we’d take a look at growth, earnings, and education-level data of the occupations mentioned and the industries that staff them to show some national trends in the last four years. The following figures come from EMSI’s third quarter 2009 data, released in late September.

Click on table for larger image

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It’s not hard to see why most of these occupations would be hard to fill. All but two of them — Sales reps and Registered Nurses — require at least a bachelor’s degree.

From 2006 to 2009, the fastest-growing occupation in this group was Physical therapists, which also requires the most education of the bunch — a master’s degree on average. Once new and replacement jobs are added to the equation, the biggest percentage growth comes from Network systems/data communications analysts (16%), followed by Actuaries and Soil and plant scientists (15%).

Industry Staffing Patterns

Now let’s look at the top industries that staff some of these occupations. We’ll start with Network systems/data communications analysts.

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The industrial makeup for this occupation shows what you expect to see — computer programming and telecommunication industries. But state and local government also are represented here; in fact, local government is showing the fastest growth (16%) along with managing offices.

Also notice the precipitous drop-off in internet service providers, an industry that’s lost 40% of its employment since 2006.

Next, let’s look at the top industries for Accountants and auditors.

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Various forms of government show up for Accountants and auditors, just as they did for Network systems/data communications analysts. Other accounting services has seen decline, but most of these industries are holding steady or growing by small margins.

If you’d like to see how these occupations and industries are faring in your region, please contact us.

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