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Employment by the Sector

Healthcare and education remain upbeat, but manufacturers continue to take it on the chin.
by Michael Beygelman
The employment market continues to be weak. On the other hand if your company is looking to hire, broadly speaking, you’re likely to have talent to choose from. It is important to note that the employment picture does look different depending on the type of skills your company is looking for. In certain skill sectors, employment is still strong so the talent you’re looking for might not necessarily be as readily available.

  • Finance. The financial services industry kicked off 2009 with a considerably smaller workforce than the start of 2008. In January 2009, employment in this sector declined 42,000 jobs during the month. In total since December 2006 (the peak of the industry), jobs in financial services have gone down 388,000. In the past month, the hardest-hit areas occurred in securities, commodity contracts, and investments (-15,000) and in credit intermediation (-10,000). The overall unemployment rate in this sector is six percent, which is still lower than the national average of 7.6 percent. At the same time, financial services opportunities are likely to grow in the mortgage area because as interest rates decline, millions of Americans will refinance, and the economic stimulus package will likely create a wide range of additional opportunities. 
  • Manufacturing. In January, national job loss totaled 598,000, including 207,000 manufacturing jobs. This is the largest one-month decline in this sector since October 1982. The unemployment rate stood at 10.9 percent, considerably higher than the national average, reflecting January decreases of 157,000 jobs in durable goods manufacturing and 68,000 in metal and motor vehicle parts production.

    This industry stands to benefit greatly from the stimulus package; the bill is estimated to include $2 billion in funding for the Department of Energy, which includes grants for manufacturers. The package is also likely to include approximately $100 million in defense spending, which will go toward supporting manufacturers of future military vehicles. 

  • Engineering. While engineering professionals experienced job losses of around 9,600 in January, the industry continues to grow in labor forecasts for the rest of 2009 and beyond. January’s job losses affected the overall industry unemployment rate slightly as this sector’s unemployment rate still remains around three percent. The stimulus package includes strong promise for job creation in this sector as projects in infrastructure, energy, technology, and telecommunications will require engineers in all specialties, including civil, mechanical, and computer. 
  • IT. Despite job losses seen this past month, IT is a strong industry in terms of employment. It is expected to grow even in the current economic uncertainty. In the area of computer systems design, this sector experienced job losses of 3,500, but saw an increase in the area of technical management and consulting services jobs of 11,000. Also, IT is an industry that could be most affected by the stimulus package.

    While much of the sprawling $800 billion legislation consists of tax cuts and broad spending increases for existing programs, the biggest outlay for new initiatives is essentially a technology industry wish list: expanding high-speed Internet access, building a “smart grid” power network, and digitizing health records. A New York Times article cited a recent IBM research report that concluded that $30 billion in spending on broadband access, the smart grid, and digitized health records would create approximately 949,000 jobs. 

  • Healthcare. In January, health and education were the only sectors to avoid decreasing employment rates, with healthcare adding 19,000 jobs (albeit at a smaller growth rate than the average in 2008 where employment gains in the industry averaged 30,000 a month). Healthcare and social assistance added the most new jobs within the industry. President Obama and Congress have made revamping the nation’s healthcare system a priority, which will affect all aspects of the sector. It is estimated that $60 billion to $65 billion will go toward labor, healthcare, and education. That funding is envisioned being allocated toward subsidizing healthcare insurance, health information technology systems, and health research. This will likely continue to raise demand for healthcare professionals in medical care, administration, and research.

With so much uncertainty in the economy, is it more challenging to find meaningful employment or talented workers who have skills that are in demand? A number of leading economists also note that in all likelihood it might get worse before it gets better. The reality is that we might have to wait until 2010 to see any kind of sustainable, month-over-month gains in employment across the board.  

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