Where Will We Find the Jobs?

Help Wanted: Projections of Jobs and Education Requirements Through 2018

by Anthony P. Carnevale, Nicole Smith, and Jeff Strohl
Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workplace, 111 pp., available at cew.georgetown .edu/jobs2018

Math Works: The Building Blocks of Success

by Achieve
14 pp., available at www.achieve.org/BuildingBlocksofSuccess

The Foreign-Born Labor Force in the United States

by Eric Newburger and Thomas Gryn
US Bureau of the Census, 15 pp., available at www.census.gov/prod/2009pubs/acs=10.pdf

It may seem that high US unemployment will never go away and will continue to plague our political life. But the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates that by 2018, the economy, growing at an annual rate of 2.4 percent, will have some 166 million paying positions, up 10 percent from a decade earlier, and close to a full employment level. Still, according to the same estimates,

hacker_1_022411.jpg
Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images
President Obama with a graduate of Kalamazoo Central High School in Michigan after he delivered the commencement address, June 2010
although the recession has had a short-run impact on the economy, the BLS expects that the accompanying slowdown in the growth of both productivity and the labor force also will have an important long-run impact on the economy…. During the next decade, the massive baby-boomer generation will be leaving the labor force, moving from the prime working-age years to retirement age. As a result, the BLS projects a 0.8-percent average annual growth of the labor force from 2008 to 2018, 0.3 percentage point lower than the historical rate of 1.1 percent posted from 1998 to 2008.1

Even if the goal of 166 million paying jobs is attained, we need to ask what manner of jobs these will be. A consensus is emerging that we are moving to a new employment era where old assumptions won’t apply. Some recent books and reports sound warnings and offer proposals, and notably, they focus on new skills and knowledge that will be needed in the workforce and those being prepared to join it.

The most ambitious is Help Wanted, a report by Anthony Carnevale, Nicole Smith, and Jeff Strohl at Georgetown University. In many ways, it carries into the future the historical linkage of technology and education that was explored a few years ago by Claudia Goldin and Lawrence Katz.2 Their study begins by examining some 1,400 occupations and specifying—by economic modeling—how many positions each will offer, also in 2018.

According to their model, in that year, the economy will be employing some 573,727 bartenders, 8,827 paperhangers, 36,655 family therapists, and 10,049 facial surgeons. They also identify the level of education for those holding these and other jobs. Thus 19 percent of casino managers will have at least a bachelor’s degree, as will 22 percent of floral designers, and 18 percent of fast-food cooks. There will be considerable variations among the states. In Nebraska, 71 percent of its “financial specialists” will need a BA, while in Oregon only 63 percent will.

Carnevale and his colleagues conclude that in the decade leading up to 2018, this country’s economy “will need 22 million new college degrees,” that is, many of the jobs available will require college degrees. But the economy “will fall short of that number by at least 3 million.” (At another point, they propose a “goal of producing 8.2 million new college graduates.”)

Hence the …

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  1. 1

    Ian D. White and Kathryn J. Byum, “The US Economy to 2018: From Recession to Recovery,” Monthly Labor Review, November 2009. 

  2. 2

    Claudia Goldin and Lawrence F. Katz, The Race Between Education and Technology (Belknap Press/Harvard University Press, 2008). See my review, ” Can We Make America Smarter?,” The New York Review, April 30, 2009.