Trade wars. Labor strikes. The rise of automation. Those are the things that are most worrisome for the U.S. economy and the employment outlook, along with the decline in manufacturing, retail and government jobs. But before panic sets in, it's important to note that there are plenty of bright spots in the job picture, especially heading into the next six months.
"I'm very optimistic about the economy and jobs," says Tom Gimbel, CEO of the LaSalle Network in Chicago, a staffing and recruiting firm.
Experts like Gimbel are upbeat because, even though jobless claims have inched up at times this year, and various sectors (agriculture, manufacturing) are being affected by trade disruptions, there are no indications that a recession is around the corner. Consumer spending remains strong, and Gimbel predicts a jolly holiday season as shoppers continue to purchase goods and services.
Still, that doesn't mean there won't be some bumps in the road for job seekers and some workers.
Challenger, Gray & Christmas reports that more than more than 10,000 job cuts in August are blamed on "trade difficulties."
Improved job efficiencies and changes in work structures are hindering job growth in some areas. For example, as more workers do administrative tasks themselves, some workers, such as secretaries and administrative assistants, are being hit hard, with job losses predicted through 2026, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports.
According to the Brookings Institution, some industries, including production, food service and transportation, will be hit hard by automation. "Men, youth and less educated workers, along with underrepresented groups all appear likely to face significantly more acute challenges from automation in the coming years. Young workers and Hispanics will be especially exposed," Brookings reports.
While he is bullish on the near-term jobs outlook, Gimbel says that there will be a "period of transition" as people move away from jobs or industries that offer fewer opportunities, and simply move into other positions. Even those without college educations — often predicted to be the workers hit hardest by employment shifts — will be able to find jobs in industries such as construction and trucking, which are currently hiring, he says.
The number of job openings held steady at about 7.2 million at the end of July, and Gimbel believes hiring will remain strong through the end of 2019 and into the first quarter of 2020. Some seasonal jobs will "go away" because of issues like the closing of some brick-and-mortar retailers, but workers in those industries should still be able to find holiday work, he says.
"You may have to drive an hour to an Amazon warehouse, or work overnight or weekends when an employer needs you — instead of setting your own hours — but those jobs are there," he says.
Looking at employment statistics and job predictions, here are the strong and weak job areas for the near future:
- Technology: PayScale, which provides salary benefits and compensation data, says that it believes the jobs that can withstand a future recession are cloud computing, artificial intelligence, big data analytics, cybersecurity and digital marketing.
- Healthcare: BLS says that as the baby boom population ages, the demand for healthcare services will grow. For example, the demand for home health aides is expected to jump by 36 percent through 2028, which is considered much faster than average job growth. While such jobs don't require a college degree, other healthcare jobs that require an advanced education — such as registered nurses — are also expected to see robust growth.
- Finance: The BLS also sees a much faster than average job growth rate of 16 percent in this sector, including financial management. "Several core functions of financial managers, including risk management and cash management, are expected to be in high demand over the next decade," BLS says.
- Administrative: A 7 percent decline in administrative assistants and secretaries is predicted through 2028, and "most job openings will result from the need to replace workers who leave the profession," the BLS predicts.
- Inspectors, testers: Continuous improvements in technology are eliminating the need for human inspectors and testers in manufacturing facilities, with many inspection tests being automated, the BLS reports.
- Postal service workers. Overall employment for postal workers is expected to drop 21 percent from 2018 to 2028, due to automated sorting systems, cluster mailboxes and tight budgets that are already hurting postal service employment, the BLS reports.
The ManpowerGroup says that its survey of more than 11,500 hiring managers reveals that hiring intentions have ticked up one percentage point for Q4 of 2019, compared to a year ago. Double-digit hiring intentions are the highest in leisure and hospitality, followed by professional and business services, wholesale and retail trade, and transportation and utilities.
"Businesses are staying focused on growth and we've seen more commit to investing in upskilling their people — that is, teaching them new skills for future jobs — in the last two months than we have in the last two years," says Becky Frankiewicz, president of ManpowerGroup North America. "We're still in a time of unprecedented opportunity for U.S. workers as there are more open jobs than there are people actively seeking work."