Utah releases new occupational projectionsBy Lecia Parks Langston, Senior Economist
“The most reliable way to forecast the future is to try to understand the present.” John Naisbitt
• Utah is expected to grow at an annual rate of roughly 3 percent between 2015 and 2017.
• Nearly 77,000 job openings are projected for the state over the next two years.
• Between 2015 and 2017, occupations with already high employment levels are projected to produce the largest number of Utah job openings.
• About 44 percent of new openings should occur to replace workers leaving an occupation.
• Computer and construction occupational groups are expected to show the most rapid expansion.
• Many occupations with high openings are lower-skilled and lower-paying.
Economists at the Utah Department of Workforce Services think our long-term occupational projections are a pretty big deal in the workforce world. They provide guidance for those making career, training or educational decisions. To ensure we keep on a proper projections path, we update them every two years.
In very simplistic terms, these occupational projections result from applying industrial staffing patterns (occupations employed by industry) to industry employment projections. They do not represent business surveys about future expansion. Honestly, that type of survey has quite a poor track record in actually projecting future occupational trends. On the other hand, our projections use research into current staffing trends and replacement activity.
Compared to the long-term projections used for planning, our annual short-term occupational projections are often overlooked. These projections extend out two years as compared to the long-term’s decade-long time frame. While they may not get as much attention as their long-term peer, our short-term projections can provide insights into current and near-future occupational trends.
In line with Utah’s recent economic performance, between 2015 and 2017 total employment is projected to increase at an annual rate of 2.9 percent providing almost 77,000 jobs openings per year. Keep in mind that openings represent both growth and the need to replace individuals who have left a particular occupation. Due to strong projected expansion, the growth openings should account for roughly 56 percent of total openings.
Occupational groups (and individual occupations) with the largest employment base in Utah tend to also create the highest number of job openings. For example, office and administrative (clerical) occupations showed the highest employment levels and the highest number of openings. Sales, food preparation and production (manufacturing) occupations all show high 2015 employment and high openings.
Replacement needs are more significant in certain occupational groups than others. In farming/fishing/forestry, protective, food preparation, sales, architecture/engineering, and scientific occupations, expected replacement openings outnumber those expected from growth. On the other side of the scale, openings due to growth are far more numerous than replacement openings in computer/mathematical occupations and construction/extraction occupations.
The aforementioned occupational groups also show the highest annual growth rates over the 2015-2017 time period. Computer/mathematical occupations are expected to expand by 4.4 percent compared to the overall average of 2.9 percent. Growth in construction/extraction occupations is projected to reach 4.1 percent. Other rapidly expanding occupational groups include business/financial operations (3.6 percent) and food preparation occupations (3.5 percent). Farming/fishing and forestry occupations show, by far, the slowest rate of expansion — a mere 1.0 percent.
Down to details
Just as large occupational groups tend to show the largest number of projected openings, so do individual occupations. All of the 15 largest-employment occupations in 2015 are also projected to land among the top 15 occupations for openings. These large occupations are often, but not always, lower paying. Retail salespersons, fast food workers, cashiers and waiters/waitresses all made the list of occupations with high openings. These are also often occupations with high replacement needs. On the other hand, general and operations managers and nurses also made it into the high-openings ranking.
In terms of growth rates, when occupations with at least 100 annual projected openings are examined, construction occupations dominate the fastest-growing cluster. Strong projected growth in the construction industry accounts for this phenomenon. Marketing analysts/specialists, health specialties teachers and several computer occupations also appeared among the fastest-growing occupations. A full set of these projections can be found by clicking here.