Fastest-Growing Industries

Amid all the gloomy talk of recession, layoffs, and continued financial turmoil, there are some sectors where more jobs will be created over the next few years.

That’s according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) latest 10-year outlook for job creation. Though it was prepared before the recent chaos in markets and banking, the forecast still makes some reasonably valid assumptions.

Among them: consultancy. Companies will still need outside guidance in crafting their decision-making, no matter how troubled the industry, so think about getting into management or scientific or technical consulting. The BLS says these kinds of high-paying (an average $467,000 annually) jobs will increase to 1.6 million by 2016, up from 920,000 in 2006.

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“Globalization, the heightened need for security, and mergers and acquisitions have made the business world a more complex place, and [businesses] use consultants to help move through that landscape,” says Eric Figueroa, an economist with the BLS.

Another growth field: firms that specialize in human resources. As companies consolidate to save money, they are transferring their human-resources functions to these specialized organizations.

Health care will be the second-fastest-growing industry, driven partly by demographics: The number of people 65 and older is expected to increase to nearly 46.4 million by 2016, from 35.6 million two years ago. The sector as a whole is projected to add 4 million jobs through 2016; that includes 480,500 home health-care aides and 512,500 nursing home workers.

Adding to the health-care boom are technological breakthroughs which continue to increase life expectancy. Medical advancements in the treatment of infertility and cancer also increase the need for more health care professionals.

Jobs within the leisure and hospitality sector will continue to grow — assuming people still have money to travel and stay in hotels. The industry as a whole should add 1.9 million jobs, the BLS says, half of which will be in food and drink service. No surprise there: Americans are working longer hours and want inexpensive, fast meals.

Education is also expected to be an expanding industry. Initiatives in universal preschool and all-day kindergarten will drive demand for more teachers and school administrators.

Much less convincing is the projection about financial services, made before the market meltdown and President Bush’s recent warning that the economy may be headed toward a recession.

Yes, the BLS projected an addition of 1.2 million jobs, and yes, there are millions of baby boomers who will need help with pensions and other self-directed retirement decisions. But Wall Street banks and other big financial institutions are in the midst of laying off tens of thousands of people.

Did BLS experts know about the credit crisis when they made this forecast? No, and Figueroa offers an explanation: “We do a 10-year projection, because [we’re] not trying to forecast the business cycles,” says the BLS economist. “We don’t forecast recession. Things can average out.”



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