Chapter 3

Fastest Growing Occupations: Projected Demand

We have now discussed how turnover, industrial structure, labor utilization, and demographics impact the demand for labor. Many of these activities occur beneath the surface of traditional labor market measures. But, as we have seen, all of these factors influence the demand for labor in ways we are only beginning to understand. Yet, as importantly, industries continue to expand and contract. This chapter introduces occupational projections and explains what they contribute to our understanding of the labor market.

Occupational demand occurs because employment on the whole rises (net change), individuals occupying jobs leave the labor market for reasons of retirement (creating replacement need), or people may leave labor markets in Wyoming for economic reasons. In this chapter, we intend to describe how the structure of occupational demand is changing in Wyoming and the U.S., and provide background on the competition for selected occupations. Chapters 5 and 6 discuss two factors (wages and opportunities) that influence an individual's choice to stay in or leave Wyoming. These two factors are likely to have the greatest impact on maintaining competition and recruitment of a skilled/educated labor force to fill vacancies in certain occupations.

Definitions: Net Employment Change and Percent Employment Change

At this point, it is necessary to introduce two measures of occupational growth based on the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) classification system. The first, net employment change, is defined as the projected occupational employment level in 2008 minus the occupational employment level in the base year or 1998. For example, cashiers (see Table 3-1) show a net growth of 816 (6,550 minus 5,734) jobs over the next decade. The second measure, percent employment change, is defined as the projected employment level in 2008 minus the base employment level (in 1998) divided by the employment level in 1998 ((6,550--5,734)/5,734). The percent employment change for cashiers over the forecast period is 14.2 percent.

At first glance, both measures of employment growth appear to tell us the same thing. The difference is that net employment change is appropriate for measuring the changing structure of Wyoming's workforce requirements, while percent employment change is useful for identifying new and emerging occupations. An emerging occupation is characterized as new occupation created by changes in technology, society, markets, or regulations.12 For example, as computers become more powerful, the opportunity to exploit large quantities of data creates a greater need to manage and analyze these databases.

Fastest Growing Occupations for Wyoming and U.S. by Net Employment and Percent Employment Change

Tables 3-1 to 3-4 show the results for Wyoming and the U.S.'s Top 30 projected occupations by net and percent growth. Table 3-8, in the appendix of this text, is the detailed list of all 672 occupations that occur in Wyoming with the net and percent employment change over the next decade.

A review of Tables 3-1 and 3-2 reveals that the greatest net gain in employment will occur among occupations requiring only work experience (On-the-Job-Training) for both Wyoming and the U.S. over the period 1998-2008. Isolating the occupations requiring only work related experience, and comparing Wyoming to the U.S., the largest growth among these occupations in Wyoming will occur in construction related occupations. In the U.S., the bulk of the growth will occur in Services related occupations. Further, comparing occupations requiring, at a minimum, post secondary education, Wyoming's net growth will occur in management and service related occupations, while four of the nine net growth occupations nationally will occur in computer science related occupations.

To more clearly view the projected occupational differences of Wyoming and the U.S., the occupational codes for the 30 projected net employment change occupations were summed to their major occupational categories. The greatest occupational growth for Wyoming will occur in the production, construction, operating, maintenance, and material handling occupations. In contrast, the greatest growth nationally will occur in the professional, paraprofessional, and technical occupations. This difference will create a labor force in Wyoming that requires less education and technical skill than that of the nation.

Comparing the fastest growing occupations by percent employment change (see Tables 3-3 and 3-4), paints a similar picture. Table 3-6 shows that Wyoming's fastest growing occupations are distributed among three occupational groups, and in the U.S. in five occupational groups. The occupations with the fastest percent employment growth in Wyoming are distributed equally among the three groups, while the United States' fastest percent employment growth are concentrated in the professional, paraprofessional, and technical occupations. Wyoming's occupational projections, therefore, show less diversity.

A closer look at Tables 3-3 and 3-4 shows that Wyoming shares with the nation a demand for four of its eleven emerging professional occupations. Three of the four are computer science related fields. These three occupations are in demand nationally and in states to which the Wyoming population is most likely to migrate, or destination states.13 Using the National OES Wage data14 and isolating the three occupations produces Table 3-7, showing that Wyoming's average hourly wage for the three computer science occupations are lower than in all other destination states. For example, at the low end of the difference between Wyoming's and the destination states' average hourly wage, Montana pays 0.3 percent more for systems analyst, electronic data processors than Wyoming ($19.58 compared to $19.53). On the high end, however, Colorado pays 49.6 percent more per hour than Wyoming for the same occupation ($29.21 compared to $19.53).

Changing Occupational Structures of Wyoming and the U.S.

The rest of this chapter, and Chapters 5 and 6, demonstrate that for occupations requiring education beyond high school, Wyoming has a difficult time competing, both in wages and opportunity. While looking at the 30 fastest growing occupations (net and percent) simplifies the changing occupational structure, we gain more insight by looking at the growth (both gain and loss in employment) of all detailed occupations (see Table 3-8).

Figure 3-1 was created by using the complete occupational projection files for Wyoming and the U.S. It represents the percent growth over the forecast horizon (1998-2008) for both the state and nation by major occupational group. Total employment is expected to grow in both Wyoming (6.1%) and the U.S. (15.3%). Figure 3-1 shows that the distribution of employment growth differs for these two areas. For example, clerical and administrative support occupations will continue to grow nationally (11.5%), yet decline in Wyoming (-20.5%). Even though professional, paraprofessional, and technical occupations did not show up equally compared to the U.S. in the top 30 percent growth occupations, Wyoming still shows considerable growth in this category.

Figure 3-2 shows the distribution of the major occupational groups in 1998 and 2008 for Wyoming and the U.S. Each piece of the pie represents the share of employment encompassed by the major occupational group in the designated year. In 1998, for instance, the percent of Wyoming's labor force employed in the production, construction, operating, maintenance, and material handling occupations was 26.8 percent and by 2008 it will grow to 27.5 percent. The U.S., for the same occupational group, is expected to decline from 24.8 percent in 1998 to 23.5 percent in 2008.

Taking this process one step further, by subtracting the percent share of an occupational group in 1998 from the percent share in an occupational group in 2008, we get the percent change in the share of employment from 1998 to 2008. For example, professional, paraprofessional, and technical occupations in the U.S. in 1998 equaled 20.8 percent of the total employment. By 2008, the percent share of total employment will increase to 22.6 percent. Therefore, the change in the percent share of employment in the U.S. for this occupational group will grow by 1.8 percent. This method was used to create Figure 3-3.

The occupational groups within Figure 3-3 are ordered so that the top one represents the group that pays the highest average hourly wage and the one on the bottom pays the lowest. Wyoming will outpace the nation in the share growth of managerial and administrative occupations and will lag behind in the share growth among the professional, paraprofessional, and technical occupations. Other observations include the growth in the production, construction, operating, maintenance, and material handling occupations in Wyoming while the percent share nationally is expected to decline. A review of Figure 3-3 demonstrates that Wyoming's largest growth in occupations will occur in the mid range wage jobs. Meanwhile, nationally the largest segment of growth will occur in the higher paying professional, paraprofessional, and technical occupations.

Even though the changes in the occupational structures of Wyoming and the U.S. differ over the next decade, there will be demand in the managerial and professional related occupations in Wyoming. Yet, the demand for these two groups combined is greater nationally. Ninety-six percent of the occupations requiring at least a Bachelor's degree are encompassed within these two major occupational groups.

Chapters 5 and 6 address issues surrounding the maintenance and recruitment of a labor force that has a large investment in human capital (education). Chapter 5 looks at wage differentials to see what occupations requiring various levels of education/training pay in Wyoming, the U.S., and the five most likely destination states. Chapter 6 looks at the opportunity structure, public versus private sector employment, available for individuals at the level of education/training required. The results indicate that Wyoming is not currently in a position to recruit highly skilled labor and may well have difficulty maintaining the labor we have.

12 Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, "Occupational Employment Statistics: New and Emerging Occupations," n.d., (August 15, 2000).

13 Internal Revenue Service, "1997-1998 State to State Migration Flows: Inflow To and Outflow from Wyoming," 1999.

14 Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, "Occupational Employment Statistics: New and Emerging Occupations," n.d., (August 15, 2000).

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Last modified on August 10, 2001 by Valerie A. Davis.