Where Service Jobs Will Be

The past week or so, I've been tracking where new jobs will be created in America. Today, I look at the sector of the economy that accounts for the largest share of all jobs - the service class. More than 60 million American workers do this kind of low-skill, low-wage, routine service work, making up 45 percent of the work force. These service class jobs are projected to make up more than roughly half of all projected new jobs out to 2018 - 7.1 million new jobs, including 835,000 projected new home health and personal care aides, 400,000 new customer service positions, 400,000 new food preparation workers, and 375,000 new retail sales clerks.

The map above plots the growth in service class jobs across U.S. metros. The biggest gainers are the biggest regions. Greater New York again tops the list with more than 285,000 projected new service class jobs, followed by Los Angeles (192,364), Chicago (174,704), Houston (111,727), Atlanta (106,132), Greater Washington, D.C. (96,857), Philadelphia (96,133), Phoenix (94,189), Minneapolis (85,694), and Dallas (85,521).

But job growth is a function of population size; it's expected that large regions will dominate the list of the biggest job generators. So, the next map plots the projected percentage change in service class jobs for U.S. metros. Two Texas metros - Brownsville (11.8 percent) and McAllen (11.6 percent) - top this list, followed by Rochester, MN (11.5 percent), Duluth, MN (11.4 percent), Alexandria, LA (11.3 percent), Vineland, NJ (11.1 percent), Greenville, NC (11 percent), Hickory, NC (11 percent), Waterbury, CT (11 percent), and Atlantic City, NJ (11 percent).

The next map shows the regions with the largest projected share of their work force doing service class work out to 2018. The largest share of service class work is, not surprisingly, in resort towns and tourist destinations where nearly two-thirds of the work force is projected to be employed in service class work: Ocean City, MD (63.9 percent), Atlantic City, NJ (63.4 percent), Myrtle Beach, SC (62.8 percent), West Palm Beach, FL (59.8 percent), Bradenton, FL (59.6 percent), and Punta Gorda, FL (59.4 percent).

Service class jobs compose the biggest share of all jobs, and are projected to grow considerably in the future. We can no longer be content to see service class jobs as low-skill, low-paid work. A serious job creation strategy must see service class jobs as a key to providing better, more engaging, higher-wage employment. Americans need to remember that manufacturing jobs were not always good jobs. A century ago, they were dirty, dangerous, low-wage jobs. Business strategies to improve productivity, the labor movement, public policies that enabled workers to form unions and to bargain collectively, and the post-Depression, post WWII social compact between capital and labor made them good jobs.

MORE ON Job Projection:
Richard Florida: Where the Jobs Will Be
Richard Florida: Where the Blue-Collar Jobs Will Be
Don Peck: How a New Jobless Era Will Transform America

That is the key task of a jobs strategy today - we have to make service class jobs good jobs. The way to do that is to begin to improve the quality of those jobs and to see service class workers as sources of innovation, continuous improvement, and productivity gains. Service class jobs are the last frontier of real inefficiency in the economy. Already, companies like The Container Store, Whole Foods, Best Buy, The Four Seasons, and Starbucks are developing new and better strategies to engage their workers, improve pay, and promote from within. These efforts are in their infancy and much more can be done to extend them.

The Obama administration should convene a national service jobs summit, calling together industry executives, unions and workers' organizations, and leading experts to define a strategy for upgrading service class jobs. It also means Americans will have to consider paying more for services. Henry Ford instituted his famous $5 day to enable his workers to buy cars. As a nation, we increased blue-collar pay and we - all of us - paid more for cars, appliances, and durable goods coming off the assembly line. In return, large parts of our work force were able to make enough to enjoy a decent middle-class life. What is more important to you, what would you really rather pay more for - a new car or the people who take care of your children or your ailing parents, or even the people who prepare the food you feed your family? Improving service jobs means spreading the costs of higher pay across our economy and all of us as consumers.

In my next post, I turn to the other big area of job growth in the U.S. economy - the projected growth of higher-skill, knowledge-based, creative class jobs.