MADELEINE BRAND, host:
Speaking of jobs, jobs, jobs, economists warned us that job growth was likely to have lagged behind as we came out of the recession. That is small consolation for millions of unemployed people. From the White House to the Congress to the employment office, everyone is looking for jobs.
Unidentified Woman #1: The issue of jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs has been a mantra.
President BARACK OBAMA: Saving money and energy, creating clean energy jobs that can't be outsourced.
Unidentified Woman #2: It's kind of like a full-time job, just trying to find one.
Unidentified Man: Stimulus bill's not working, the American people are asking where are the jobs?
BRAND: This week, in our series "New Jobs For A New Decade," we're going to look at which industries and occupations offer the best hope for creating jobs in the new decade. NPR's John Ydstie begins our coverage with a top ten list for job seekers.
JOHN YDSTIE: The first decade of this century ended in a disaster for employment. Since the recession began two years ago, the U.S. has lost more than 7 million jobs. Just to regain the jobs we've lost will be a huge challenge, says Harvard University labor economist, Lawrence Katz.
Professor LAWRENCE KATZ (Economy, Harvard University): We would need well over 300,000 a month for, sort of four years in a row just to try to make up what we've lost the last couple of years.
YDSTIE: Katz says there are very few periods in U.S. history when job growth has been that strong.
Prof. KATZ: So, we're in a very deep hole. A normal recovery will not get us there for a very long time.
YDSTIE: Katz thinks it could take half a decade or so just to get to the employment levels we had two years ago. Still, he expects during this new decade, the U.S. economy will eventually create 15 million new jobs, with the unemployment rate falling to around 5 percent. The real question, he says, is what kind of jobs they'll be.
Prof. KATZ: The worrisome trend has been something that I've called the polarization of the labor market.
YDSTIE: That is, strong job growth for the high-paying jobs and the low-paying jobs at both ends of the labor market, but less growth in the middle to replace the well-paying manufacturing jobs the U.S. is losing. That's what the U.S. has experienced in the past 15 years or so. And projections for the next decade, from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, suggest that elements of that basic trend will continue.
Ms. DIXIE SOMMERS (Assistant Commissioner, Bureau of Labor Statistics): The top 10: Registered nurses would be first, followed by home health aids.
YDSTIE: BLS Assistant Commissioner Dixie Sommers is reciting a list of the 10 occupations the BLS expects will provide the greatest number of new jobs over the next decade.
Number three on the list: customer-service representatives. Then comes...
Ms. SOMMERS: Food preparation and serving workers, personal and home care aides. These, again, are folks who go into the home to help individuals, but they're not doing health care.
YDSTIE: Retail salespersons are number six, followed by office clerks. So, six of the top seven fastest-growing occupations are low-skill, low-wage jobs.
Lawrence Katz says the challenge is to move those jobs up the skills ladder. There's no reason, he says, that home health-care workers couldn't be better educated to provide patients with greater value and, as a result, command higher wages to improve their own living standards.
Prof. KATZ: So professionalizing those types of jobs, we could have a very optimistic vision of an economy.
YDSTIE: How that might square with the goal of spending less on health care isn't clear.
Katz argues it wouldn't necessarily require spending more on education but rather, changing what's taught to focus more on different skills - like problem solving, interpersonal relations and teamwork.
Once again this decade, the BLS is projecting the health-care sector will be a leader in producing new jobs - 4 million of them - including high-skill, high-paying jobs like doctors and nurses. The service sector, which includes health care, is expected to produce a whopping 96 percent of all new jobs, while manufacturing employment continues to shrink.
For job seekers, BLS Assistant Commissioner Sommers says nursing combines a huge number of openings with high pay � a median wage of over $62,000 a year.
Ms. SOMMERS: Accountants is another one that's expected to grow pretty rapidly and pays around $59,000, on an annual average.
YDSTIE: For those who want to spend less time in school than accountants and nurses but still make good money, Sommers suggests firefighting or becoming a sales rep for a manufacturer � especially one making technical and scientific products.
Ms. SOMMERS: That group, the sales representatives, is around $70,000 a year.
YDSTIE: Finally, over the next decade, the best-paying, fast-growing job that requires little training is truck driving. According to the BLS, the folks driving the big tractor-trailer rigs earn, on average, about $37,000 a year.
John Ydstie, NPR News, Washington.
BRAND: Our series "New Jobs For A New Decade" continues all week.
You're listening to MORNING EDITION from NPR News.
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