Economists love to pontificate about which industries are expected to grow over the next several years. We tend to hear a lot about "green jobs" and health care. While their estimates are often on the right track, it would also be useful to know which sectors have shown actual job growth already. Since the U.S. labor market began its slow recovery in 2010, we can do some analysis to determine which industries have begun growing significantly compared to others. Analyzing the approximately 150 sectors and sub-sectors from the Bureau of Labor Statistics data, there about a dozen that stand out.
Last year did not exactly provide a robust labor market recovery. Just over one million jobs were added to the U.S. economy. That's better than the reverse, but it didn't do much to help the 15 million unemployed Americans. In fact, the U.S. economy needs to grow by more than one million jobs per year just to keep up with population growth. Total employment rose by 0.8% during the course of 2010.
But if you dig deeper into specific sectors and sub-sectors, you find that a handful performed much better than average. Within these categories, a few are well-known to have endured, while others are a little surprising. The trick is to try to figure out if a sector is benefiting from the cyclical benefits of the recovery or genuine intrinsic growth that will be sustained in the longer-term. For example, clothing retail was one of the sectors to see substantial jobs added, but this is likely linked to the recovery and does not signal a new growth industry.
One of the biggest winners last year was mining. Considering that oil demand is returning and that coal and other energy-related resources are being sought out more than in the recent past, the industry should continue to add jobs. Overall, mining saw an impressive 14.8% increase in jobs.
Some of the sectors that began to recover also point to a stronger auto industry. Sales have been steadily growing since the recession hit, which culminated with the collapse of General Motors and Chrysler. As the industry regains its footing, Americans will find jobs in the sector. The big question here is whether U.S. auto companies have really reinvented themselves to compete more aggressively with their foreign competitors going forward.
Of course, another universe of jobs which will continue to grow steadily in the years to come consists of those that have pretty much anything to do with computers and advanced technology. This is even true of manufacturing, which had a few tech-oriented sectors add quite a few jobs. The continuing growth in tech also contributed to more hiring for electronics retailers last year. Deep knowledge of computers has also become a very valuable attribute for job seekers, as computer systems design continues to hire fairly aggressively.
Another industry that will only get larger going forward is health care. This was one of the few resilient industries during the recession, and it continued to grow robustly in 2010. Virtually every aspect of health care is adding jobs, but home health care and outpatient services are seeing the most growth.
Finally, the federal government grew pretty significantly in 2010, adding 46,000 jobs if you exclude the postal service. As Washington becomes focused on deficit reduction, however, that may change. But considering all of the additional regulatory measures that were imposed last year, it's a little hard to see how.
What does this 2010's data mean for job seekers or young adults looking for jobs? Some key industries to pursue are probably those related to health care, computers, and mining (actually really anything energy related). Not only are these sectors that have already begun growing at a moderate pace since the recession ended, but they're widely theorized to be high-growth industries. With that said, we'll have to keep our eye on these job numbers for the next year or two. The labor market's recovery is still quite young, so it's a little early to know for sure of the trends we're seeing will endure.
Note: Temporary help services was one of the highest growth sectors, but it was not included, since it isn't really an independent industry. The phenomenon is likely connected to the recovery and will fade as unemployment declines.