Finally, some answers are emerging. There are still about 7.5 million fewer jobs than there were at the end of 2007, when the Great Recession began. That's a big hole, and it could take years before employment returns to "normal" levels of five or six years ago. But we're turning a corner. Over the last few months, employers have added 125,000 jobs per month on average, and the trend is strengthening. That's enough job growth to start lowering the unemployment rate, which has fallen from 9.8 percent last November to 8.9 percent now. Companies need new people, and anxious CEOs are finally becoming optimistic enough to give hiring managers a green light.
Hiring is wildly uneven, however, and it's likely to stay that way. Some industries are in a natural decline that accelerated during the recession, with many jobs gone for good. But other parts of the economy are following the traditional patterns of a recovery, and some industries remain strong due to demographics or basic human needs. To gauge where the most jobs will be created over the next year or so, I used data from research firm IBISWorld to measure projected job growth in 2011 for nearly 700 industries and sub-industries. Unlike government or industry data that measures employment levels in the past, IBISWorld uses revenue forecasts, productivity data, and the expertise of analysts to estimate job changes in the future. The outlook can help workers and employers better understand the job market—and it also helps illustrate some of the most important ways the U.S. economy is changing. Here are the 10 industries expected to add the most jobs over the next year:
Office staffing (284,000 new jobs). The rapid hiring of office workers is one part of the recovery that's going the way it's supposed to. As recession gives way to recovery, companies typically hire temporary workers first, then hire more full-timers as business picks up. As revenue grows, businesses spend more on everything from support staff to printer repairmen to lawyers, consultants, and contractors.
Tourism (191,000 new jobs). When times get tough, the travel budget shrinks—whether you're a company or a family. When conditions ease, travel picks up again. In addition to domestic tourism, the United States should benefit from economies in Asia and other emerging nations that are growing faster than average, since America is a top destination for foreign travelers.
Education (131,000 jobs). One lesson of the recession was that education has never been more important—and often means the difference between a paycheck and an unemployment claim. State and local budget woes are causing teacher layoffs in some areas, but IBISWorld still expects a net job gain of 62,000 at public schools, including administration and support staff. Colleges and universities, along with trade and other specialist schools, should see a similar hiring surge, with nearly 67,000 new jobs.
Restaurants (130,000 new jobs). The dining budget is another obvious place to trim some fat when money gets tight, and the restaurant industry lost about 365,000 jobs during the recession. But people are starting to eat out again, which is good news for every restaurant category, from fast food to fine dining.
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Car dealerships (101,000 new jobs). The local showroom was a depressing place during the recession, since car sales fell by more than 40 percent. Plus, the General Motors and Chrysler bankruptcies led to the shuttering of hundreds of dealerships. But the gloom is finally lifting, and rising car sales have been a bright spot lately. As buyers return, showrooms will ramp up. That includes used cars, which have been nicely profitable since more buyers are trying to save money by buying older models.
Doctors (63,000 new jobs). It's no secret that the aging of the baby boomers will require an ever-larger medical establishment to care for them, with a need for about 59,000 specialists and 4,000 primary-care docs in the coming year. The IBISWorld data doesn't break out nurses, physician assistants, and technicians into individual categories, but it does indicate the need for at least 200,000 new workers in healthcare overall. Virtually every sector will add jobs.
Home-building (47,000 new jobs). The real-estate bust is perhaps the single-biggest contributor to high unemployment, with about two million jobs lost during since the recession in the construction industry alone. But job losses have bottomed out, and there's a good chance 2011 will be the year that a slow housing recovery begins. Commercial real estate may have further to fall, but home building should start to pick up, especially in areas like the Midwest where the housing bust was fairly mild.
Warehouse clubs and supercenters (43,000 new jobs). Saving money has timeless appeal, and many consumers who flocked to discount megastores like Costco and Sam's Club are likely to remain loyal customers. Retail sales should pick up overall in 2011, but discounters will enjoy an outsized gain.
Nursing homes and elderly services (41,000 new jobs). The baby boom will soon become the senior boom, with the first of the boomers hitting retirement age this year. In addition to traditional nursing-home jobs, independent-minded retirees will drive up demand for home-based healthcare, with 20,000 new home-health jobs likely to materialize in 2011 alone.
Supermarket and grocery stores (31,000 new jobs). Sales of staples and niceties alike should pick up as the recovery gains strength. Plus, many retailers that have been absorbing cost increases due to more expensive energy and other factors have started passing them on to consumers. That means higher prices on food and some other goods, which consumers obviously don't like. But modest prices hikes are often a sign of a strengthening economy, and if they stick, profit margins will rise, allowing these firms to hire more.