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Randy Cray column: Wis. job growth projections emphasize health care

7:48 PM, Jul. 20, 2013  |  Comments
Randy Cray
Randy Cray
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There has been a lot of discussion in the media about the number of jobs being created in Wisconsin. However, little has been said about the types of jobs that will be available to workers in our state. A report from the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development outlines the occupational projections for the 2008-18 time period and gives us insight into this question.

The first set of projections deals with the top 15 occupations, in terms of new jobs generation. Given the aging of the population, it's not surprising that the list is dominated by health care positions. Occupation rank, number of new job openings, and the 2009 average annual salary are in parentheses. Registered nurses (No. 1, 10,570, $63,187), home health aides (No. 2, 7,940, $21,910), and personal home care aids (No. 3, 7,380, $20,297) are the top three occupations in terms of projected new openings. In addition, nurses aids/orderlies/attendants (No. 6, 5,090, $25,769) and medical assistants (No. 13, 2,100, $30,313) rank high on the list.

Other high ranking occupations, in terms of new job openings, include food preparation workers (No. 4, 7,260, $17,371), customer service representatives (No. 5, 5,960, $32,996), accountants & auditors (No. 7, 3,500, $61,069), truck/tractor-trailer drivers (No. 8, 3,450, $39,813), network systems/data communication analysts (No. 9, 2,900, $64,364), office clerks (No. 10, 2,590, $28,109), waiters and waitresses (No. 11, 2,410, $18,892), landscaping/groundskeeping (No. 12, 2,290, $26,505), computer software engineers (No. 14, 1,820, $75,752), and recreation workers (No. 15, 1,560, $23,664).

The second set of DWD projections are for occupations forecast to have high rates of growth. Unfortunately, most of these occupations will not generate that many new jobs because few people are employed in these categories now. Growth rate, total number of job openings (both new and replacement jobs), and the 2009 average annual salary are in parentheses. Examples of these fast-growing but small occupational categories include financial examiners (32 percent, 220, $68,251), ambulance drivers & attendants (32.6 percent, 260, $22,268), athletic trainers (28.3 percent, 270, $48,813), and physician assistants (27.1 percent, 760, $87,608).

Additional fast-growing occupations with modest overall employment growth include surgical technicians (25 percent, 1,340, $44,801), medical equipment repairers (24.5 percent, 650, $49,492), physical therapist aids (24.4 percent, 420, $24,790), mental health counselors (24.1 percent, 830, $44,180), cardiovascular technologists/technicians (24 percent, 370, $52,769), and medical scientists (22.6 percent, 1,240, $56,810).

As mentioned earlier, the medical-related occupations tend to dominate both lists. The demographic data suggest that Wisconsin's population average age will continue to rise. Couple this with the fact that as people age, they tend to have a greater need for medical treatments; it is very likely the number of people employed in medical occupations will continue to grow well beyond the 2018 cutoff date of the projections. The information from the DWD strongly suggests there is a high positive correlation between educational-training attainment and average salary. The annual median wage/salary in Wisconsin in 2009 was $32,351. A significant percentage of the forecast new job openings will be at or below the current median wage. The implication is that unless we do more to increase the educational and training opportunities for our residents and encourage knowledge-based industries to locate in the state, income levels in Wisconsin will continue to stagnate.

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