Outlook 2012: Demand for skilled professionals continues to climb
CAPITAL REGION College graduates fared better in the recession than those less educated, and economists believe this trend will continue during the coming year, in part because the number of skilled professional jobs typically filled by college graduates are on the rise.
The category of professional jobs includes the legal field, the financial industry, engineers and tech workers.
"We expect that there will be growth and that it will tend to be in higher-wages jobs," said James Ross, a labor market analyst with the state Department of Labor. "The professions have been a long-term area of growth for us."
Ross said the Capital Region will see growth in accounting, the medical field and engineering, as the new GlobalFoundries computer chip plant in Malta and the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering continue to expand and hire. He also said that the presence of state government "pushes up our share of professional workers." With older state workers retiring, there will be a need to hire new workers as replacements, he said.
James Parrott, an economist with the Economic Policy Institute, agreed, noting that between December 2010 and December 2011, jobs in the professional services sector grew by 4 percent: "That's the strongest growth of all the major sectors in the state, even better than education and health."
Job growth areas
Jaison Abel, a senior economist with the Federal Reserve Bank of New York in Buffalo, said that two of upstate's biggest areas of job growth are education and health care and that these areas experienced modest growth even during the recession. Education often grows during downturns because more people decide to go to school, and health care has been growing due to the aging of the population.
Professional and business services are another area "where the growth seems to be," Abel said.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' Occupational Outlook Handbook, these occupations will experience the most rapid growth between 2008 and 2018, expanding at 17 percent and adding 5.2 million jobs nationally. Much of this growth will be driven by an increasing demand for health care services, education, training and library occupations and computer and mathematical science occupations.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics' Occupational Outlook Handbook also makes projections for industry growth.
According to the handbook, employment in the professional, scientific and technical services industry is projected to grow by 34 percent, adding about 2.7 million new jobs nationally by 2018. Employment in computer systems design and related services is expected to increase by 45 percent, accounting for nearly 25 percent of all the new jobs in this industry sector. "Employment growth will be driven by growing demand for the design and integration of sophisticated networks and Internet and intranet sites," the occupational handbook states.
Meanwhile, employment in management, scientific and technical consulting services is expected to expand "at a staggering 83 percent, making up about 31 percent of job growth in this sector. Demand for these services will be spurred by businesses' continued need for advice on planning and logistics, the implementation of new technologies and compliance with workplace safety, environmental and employment regulations," the occupational handbook states.
Experts said that upstate New York, and the country as a whole, is shifting from a lower wage, lower skilled manufacturing economy to a more skilled service economy.
"The trend within the economy is toward services and away from manufacturing," said Adrian Masters, an associate professor of economics at the University at Albany. In the Capital Region, GlobalFoundries and the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering have created a need for "high-end engineering."
"The U.S. is continuing to emerge and shift more of its labor to the so-called knowledge economy and less of its labor to the making and distribution of goods," Abel said. "College grads are more suited to the areas where there is growth."
Abel said upstate New York weathered the economic downturn fairly well compared to other areas of the country and the region's economy has "actually diversified quite nicely in the last 30 years. We've seen the expansion of education and the expansion of health care. We've gone from being a region that was highly specialized in manufacturing to being specialized in industries that are stable."
According to the New York State Department of Labor's short-term occupational projections, between 2010 and 2012, all occupations are expected to grow by 1.6 percent in New York. Jobs in business and financial operations are expected to grow by 2.1 percent, while computer and mathematical occupations are expected to grow by 3.2 percent. Architecture and engineering is expected to grow by 1.8 percent, legal occupations by 0.8 percent, sales by 2 percent and health care support occupations by 4.1 percent.