By Pete Julius

For about a year now, our nation has been emerging from a recession.  Stock market activity has picked up, businesses are investing again and productivity is up.  However, our employment rate still pretty high.  If we are in recovery, why are people not finding jobs, and what are the job projections through 2012?

There are many reasons why the job growth levels are not where they should be or where we would like them to be following a recession.  Most people like to blame the number of jobs that are going to Mexico, India, China and other cost-competitive nations. In fact, there are other underlying reasons.

our current unemployment rate, as of February 2004, is 3.1% higher than in March 2001.  More importantly, notice that about 1.8% of our labor force is reported as missing.  What? What in the world does that mean? Well, it means that there are roughly 2 million workers who have either dropped out of the labor force entirely or have failed to find a new job.  So, what are the underlying reasons for unemployment rate of 7.4% and the estimated missing 2 million workers?

One of the biggest impediments to our job growth is the paradigm shift in job type.  Typically, when coming out of a recession, many of those who are laid off get to return to their old jobs.  This time around it is much different.  Most of the people who have lost their jobs in the past couple of years are less likely to be hired back this time around.  Part of it can be blamed on some of those jobs going overseas.  The other part is that we are moving into a knowledge-based economy, which requires a higher level of education and job training than the jobs that were lost to other countries.  As a result, many workers are being forced into lower wage jobs, while others are having difficulty even finding a job.   

In addition to this paradigm shift, we are currently experiencing a very high level of productivity.  Through the use of technology and innovation, companies have learned to do more with less.  Coupled with rising health care costs, this means that companies do not need to hire new employees, leaving more people wandering the streets looking for work.  It must also be noted that the social, political and economic instabilities around the world have also hindered job growth.  However, given all of these obstacles, there are pockets of activity and areas to focus on to improve the unemployment rate.

The first table below lists the top ten best projected industries from 2002 – 2012, while the second table lists the top ten worst for the same time period. 

Top Ten Best Projected Employment Projections (2002-2012)
  Total employment (000’s) Median annual earnings (Dollars) Education/training category
Occupation 2002 2012 Percent Change
Medical assistants 365 579 58.9 23,940 Moderate-term on-the-job training
Network systems and data communications analysts 186 292 57 58,420 Bachelor’s degree
Physician assistants 63 94 48.9 64,670 Bachelor’s degree
Social and human service assistants 305 454 48.7 23,370 Moderate-term on-the-job training
Home health aides 580 859 48.1 18,090 Short-term on-the-job training
Medical records and health information technicians 147 216 46.8 23,890 Associate’s degree
Physical therapist aides 37 54 46.4 20,670 Short-term on-the-job training
Computer software engineers, applications 394 573 45.5 70,900 Bachelor’s degree
Computer software engineers, systems software 281 409 45.5 74,040 Bachelor’s degree
Physical therapist assistants 50 73 44.6 36,080 Associate’s degree
Source: BLS          


Top Ten Worst Projected Employment Projections (2002-2012)
  Total employment (000’s) Median annual earnings (Dollars) Education/training category
Occupation 2002 2012 Percent Change
Shoe machine operators and tenders 7 5 -26.1 20,600 Moderate-term on-the-job training
Fishers and related fishing workers 36 27 -26.8 20,710 Moderate-term on-the-job training
Roof bolters, mining 4 3 -27.7 38,430 Moderate-term on-the-job training
Textile bleaching and dyeing machine operators and tenders 27 19 -28.7 20,800 Moderate-term on-the-job training
Radio mechanics 7 5 -29.3 36,230 Postsecondary vocational award
Textile winding, twisting, and drawing out machine setters, operators, and tenders 66 46 -30.3 21,920 Moderate-term on-the-job training
  Total employment (000’s) Median annual earnings (Dollars) Education/training category
Occupation 2002 2012 Percent Change
Shuttle car operators 3 2 -31.3 38,360 Short-term on-the-job training
Sewing machine operators 315 216 -31.5 17,440 Moderate-term on-the-job training
Word processors and typists 241 148 -38.6 26,730 Moderate-term on-the-job training
Textile knitting and weaving machine setters, operators, and tenders 53 33 -38.6 22,970 Long-term on-the-job training
Source: BLS          

It is interesting to note that the ten best jobs are service related and the ten worst are in manufacturing.  Additionally, notice that the level of education is much higher for the top ten best.  This is indicative of the trend of moving into a knowledge-based economy.  Those jobs that are going to stay here and employ in the future are those that will require a higher level of education.  Most importantly, as a BusinessWeek article reports, any job that is considered routine is in jeopardy of moving to a more cost-competitive country.     


Paul Kaihla (2004, March 23), “Offshoring Isn’t the Culprit,” Business 2.0. Retrieved from,,96,00.html

BusinessWeek, March 22, 2004, “Where Are the Jobs,” pages 36-55.