As the Working in America
data visualization illustrates, just 1.7 percent of American workers have jobs in the Information sector, making them almost as rare as farmers. But if the United States is now truly an information- and knowledge-based economy, how can information jobs comprise such a small percentage of the workforce?
Three reasons account for this apparent disconnect:
- Many "information jobs" are accounted for under different NAICS (North American Industry Classification) codes.
- Tens of thousands of information-based jobs, such as those in information technology (IT), are embedded in traditional industries.
- Information technologies produce economies of scale that require fewer workers.
First, industry sector NAICS 51 "Information" includes only jobs in sectors such as broadcasting, journalism, motion pictures, or data processing. Millions of information-oriented jobs in sectors such as consulting, think tanks, or educational services are accounted for under different NAICS categories. In fact, Professional and Business Services, which includes jobs such as attorneys or computer systems designers, is a different NAICS category altogether, even though such jobs are almost entirely information-based.
Second, many of the new IT-enabled information-based jobs created in the economy over the past three decades--for example, Web designers or data analysts--are embedded within traditional industries like manufacturing, airlines, or finance. Because of this, the statistics don't fully reflect IT's role as a jobs driver, as from 2001 to 2011, 742,000 new IT jobs
were created, an increase of 29.1 percent. In fact, IT employment grew more than 125 times faster than employment as a whole, which grew by only 0.2 percent.
Finally, IT-enabled information jobs deliver tremendous scale, leverage, and productivity gains. We wouldn't want 100,000s of people manually and inefficiently looking up search terms on the Internet or connecting people with their friends. That's why Google and Facebook need only relatively small staffs to produce enormous value for society.
In other words, we shouldn't judge the impact of the information sector on the number of jobs in the specific information sector as its impact on the employment landscape touches many other traditional industries.