5 Important Things You Need to Know About The American Job Market

An American auto industry worker, who may soon need to reenter the job market

An American auto industry worker, who may soon need to re-enter the job market | Bill Pugliano/Getty Images

The job market is constantly and consistently evolving. Where opportunity is seemingly unlimited today, could be the next Rust Belt tomorrow. Jobs and career paths, as a result, can be hard to decide where and how you should focus your time — particularly if you’re looking at college or training programs. You don’t want to train for a job that’s going to be obsolete in a number of years, and you don’t want a college degree that won’t earn you a return on your investment.

Needless to say, any intel you can get on which way the economic pendulum is swinging is incredibly valuable.

But that sort of data isn’t easy to come by. We know, for example, that people who drive for a living are facing a very rough future — driverless cars and autopilot technology exist, and are going to be implemented on a wide scale soon. That’s just one sector or field, though. What people really need and want to know is what skills or industries are going to expand in the future, and offer up higher earnings as a result.

A new brief from Pew Social Trends, The State of American Jobs, is chock-full of valuable insight that helps narrow things down.

“Tectonic changes are reshaping U.S. workplaces as the economy moves deeper into the knowledge-focused age,” the brief says. “These changes are affecting the very nature of jobs by rewarding social, communications and analytical skills. They are prodding many workers to think about lifetime commitments to retraining and upgrading their skills.”

Pew Research Center conducted a survey, along with the Markle Foundation, to try and get a better feel for the current (and future) American job market. The resulting brief is long and dense, but there are some incredibly valuable pieces of information to be extracted. Here are five things about the job market that everyone should take to heart.

1. The fastest-growing job fields

Jobs are created, and jobs are destroyed. It’s a part of the economy’s natural cycle, and what is commonly referred to as creative destruction. New technologies and globalization usher in new opportunities, and see others — often in the form of jobs — rendered unviable, or shifted to other regions. Pew was able to break down which industries have seen the most benefit, or growth, as a result. The chart below gives us a visual and also shows which industries have contracted at the same time.

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2. These skills will get you a raise

If you’re serious about being successful in the modern American job market, you’ll need a set of baseline skills. These are different than they were a generation ago — or even a decade ago, for that matter — and for some people, it can be incredibly difficult to adjust. But Pew’s data reveals which skills, and their relative importance, in today’s job market. Spoiler: You need to learn to communicate, and get comfortable with technology.

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3. What Americans blame for job losses

You can take a play from Donald Trump’s playbook and blame the Chinese or Mexico for job losses (which isn’t necessarily true but isn’t necessarily untrue, either), or you can dig a little deeper and get to the roots of the issue. Coal jobs, for example, are largely disappearing due to increased natural gas production. Manufacturing jobs are disappearing due to automation and cheaper foreign labor. It’s a big, complicated mess. But what do Americans think? Pew has answers:

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4. Education and training: As important as ever

This is a simple chart, but it speaks volumes:

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Basically, you’re going to need to get some additional training or go to college if you want to be prepared for the current and future job market. The more training or education you get, the better — opportunities are growing much faster for those who invest in themselves than for those who do not.

5. Social and analytical skills attract money and opportunity

Where’s the money at? It’s going to workers, at a higher rate, who possess social and analytical skills. “Jobs requiring higher levels of social or analytical skills generally pay more than jobs requiring higher physical or manual skills, and the pay gap between manual and analytical jobs has grown over the years,” Pew’s brief says.

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If you want that raise or promotion, those are two areas you can focus on for improvement.

Follow Sam on Twitter @Sliceofginger and Facebook

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