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Job Outlook

Changing times lead to changing employment, keeping the world of work in constant flux. The wide array of occupations in the American labor market responds to social, global, scientific, commercial, and legislative developments. These forces cause a decline in employment for jobs that once offered solid careers while creating rapid growth in positions that were unheard of not long ago. In today's marketplace, people must plan their careers carefully and be aware of which occupations will be in demand in the future.

The $6.9 trillion U.S. economy of 1996 is projected to reach $8.5 trillion by 2006. Nationwide employment in 2006 is expected to reach 150.9 million, an increase of 14 percent, or 18.6 million jobs, above the 1996 level.

To successfully plan your career you must know what changes are taking place in the world of work. These changes vary from one industry to another, from one geographic area to another, and from one company to another. Yet many changes, such as those listed here, apply to most situations.

  • Employers are increasingly becoming multinational. Even if companies do not have physical locations in other countries, they may be doing business around the world electronically.
  • Employers are streamlining and consolidating operations as they face global competition.
  • Some industries are declining because of technological changes.
  • Service businesses are growing and now provide almost three-quarters of the U.S. gross domestic product. Service industries include hotels, restaurants, repair, health, legal, and educational services. With an increase expected in the number of older people, employment in industries providing care to the elderly is expected to grow significantly.
Occupational Views

Executive, administrative, and managerial occupations
Because of strong competition for these jobs, applicants with previous work experience, specialized training, or graduate study will have an advantage. Computer skills will become essential as managers rely on computerized information systems to assist with the routine function of their organizations.

Professional and technical occupations
Occupations in these fields are expected to grow faster than average and gain more new jobs than any other occupational group. However, projected growth rates for individual occupations are as diverse as the jobs themselves, reflecting changes in technology, demographics, and business practices, among other factors.

Marketing and sales occupations
There is greater competition for jobs in higher paying marketing and sales occupations, such as securities and financial services sales representative, than in lower paying ones such as retail sales workers. Opportunities will be best for well-trained, personable, and ambitious people who enjoy selling.

Administrative support, including clerical
Because many administrative support occupations have a large number of people working in them, and have a relatively high turnover rate, opportunities should be plentiful for full- and part-time jobs, even in slow-growing occupations.

Service occupations
Full- and part-time jobs will be plentiful for food and beverage service workers because of the group's large number of jobs, high turnover, and overall average employment growth. Most health services occupations are expected to grow much faster than the average due to an increasing and aging population, technological advances in medicine, and the increasing use of support personnel. Growth in personal, building, and grounds service occupations will vary widely.

Mechanics, installers, and repairers
Computer and office machine repairer is expected to be the fastest growing occupation in this group, reflecting the increased use of these machines.

Construction trades occupations
Virtually all of the new jobs will be in construction. An increase in the number of households and industrial plants, the desire to alter or modernize existing structures, and the need to maintain and repair the nation's infrastructure - highways, dams, and bridges - will result in a significant number of new jobs. However, employment in construction can vary from year to year because the industry is sensitive to changes in the nation's economy.

Production occupations
There will be little change in overall employment growth. Desktop publishing specialists and water treatment plant operator occupations are expected to see fairly rapid growth over the next few years. Many production occupations are sensitive to the business cycle and competition from imports. When factory orders decline, workers may face shortened workweeks, layoffs, and plant closings.

Transportation and material moving occupations
The fastest growing occupations in this group are bus drivers and truck drivers. Employment of bus drivers should increase to meet the needs of a growing school-age population, while the number of truck drivers is also expected to increase as the expanding economy requires more shipment of goods.

Handlers, equipment cleaners, helpers, and laborers
Many opportunities will arise from the need to replace workers who leave these high-turnover occupations. However, the number of openings will depend on the strength of the economy, particularly for construction laborers and other occupations in industries highly sensitive to changes in the business cycle.

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