Career Guide to Industries: Overview and Outlook
The U.S. economy is comprised of industries with diverse characteristics. For each industry covered in the Career Guide, detailed information is provided about specific characteristics: The nature of the industry, working conditions, employment, occupational composition, training and advancement requirements, earnings, and job outlook. This chapter provides an overview of these characteristics and the outlook for the various industries and economy as a whole.
Nature of the Industry
Industries are defined by the processes they use to produce goods and services. Workers in the United States produce and provide a wide variety of products and services and, as a result, the types of industries in the U.S. economy range widely-from agriculture, forestry, and fishing to aerospace manufacturing. Each industry has a unique combination of occupations, production techniques, inputs and outputs, and business characteristics. Understanding the nature of the industry is important because it is this unique combination that determines working conditions, educational requirements, and the job outlook for each of the industries discussed in the Career Guide.
Industries consist of many different places of work, called establishments. Establishments are physical locations at which people work, such as the branch office of a bank, a gasoline service station, a school, a department store, or a plant that manufactures machinery. Establishments range from large factories and corporate office complexes employing thousands of workers to small community stores, restaurants, professional offices, and service businesses employing only a few workers. Establishments should not be confused with companies or corporations, which are legal entities. Thus, a company or corporation may have a single establishment or more than one establishment. Establishments that use the same or similar processes to produce goods or services are organized together into industries. Industries are, in turn, organized together into industry groups. These are further organized into industry subsectors and then ultimately into industry sectors. For the purposes of labor market analysis, the Bureau of Labor Statistics organized industry sectors into industry supersectors. A company or corporation could own establishments classified in more than one industry, industry sector, or even industry supersector.
Each industry subsector is made up of a number of industry groups, which are, as mentioned, determined by differences in production processes. An easily recognized example of these distinctions is in the food manufacturing subsector, which is made up of industry groups that produce meat products, preserved fruits and vegetables, bakery items, and dairy products, among others. Each of these industry groups requires workers with varying skills and employs unique production techniques. Another example of these distinctions is found in utilities, which employs workers in establishments that provide electricity, natural gas, and water.
There were almost 8.8 million private business establishments in the United States in 2006. Business establishments in the United States are predominantly small; 60.4 percent of all establishments employed fewer than 5 workers in March 2006. However, the medium-sized to large establishments employ a greater proportion of all workers. For example, establishments that employed 50 or more workers accounted for only 4.7 percent of all establishments, yet employed 56.5 percent of all workers. The large establishments-those with more than 500 workers-accounted for only 0.2 percent of all establishments, but employed 17.1 percent of all workers. Table 1 presents the percent distribution of employment according to establishment size.
The average size of these establishments varies widely across industries. Most establishments in the construction, wholesale trade, retail trade, finance and insurance, real estate and rental and leasing, and professional, scientific, and technical services industries are small, averaging fewer than 20 employees per establishment. However, wide differences within industries can exist. Hospitals, for example, employ an average of 542.7 workers, while physicians' offices employ an average of 10.3. Similarly, although there is an average of 14.7 employees per establishment for all of retail trade, department stores employ an average of 130.3 people but jewelry stores employ an average of only 5.9.
Establishment size can play a role in the characteristics of each job. Large establishments generally offer workers greater occupational mobility and advancement potential, whereas small establishments may provide their employees with broader experience by requiring them to assume a wider range of responsibilities. Also, small establishments are distributed throughout the Nation-every locality has a few small businesses. Large establishments, in contrast, employ more workers and are less common, but they play a much more prominent role in the economies of the areas in which they are located.
Just as the goods and services produced in each industry are different, working conditions vary significantly among industries. In some industries, the work setting is quiet, temperature-controlled, and virtually hazard free, while other industries are characterized by noisy, uncomfortable, and sometimes dangerous work environments. Some industries require long workweeks and shift work, but standard 40-hour workweeks are common in many other industries. In still other industries, a lot of the jobs can be seasonal, requiring long hours during busy periods and abbreviated schedules during slower months. Production processes, establishment size, and the physical location of work usually determine these varying conditions.
One of the most telling indicators of working conditions is an industry's injury and illness rate. Overexertion, being struck by an object, and falls on the same level, are among the most common incidents causing work-related injury or illness. In 2006, approximately 4.1 million nonfatal injuries and illnesses were reported throughout private industry. Among major industry divisions, manufacturing had the highest rate of injury and illness-6.0 cases for every 100 full time workers-while financial activities had the lowest rate-1.5 cases. About 5,703 work-related fatalities were reported in 2006; the most common events resulting in fatal injuries were transportation incidents, contact with objects and equipment, assaults and violent acts, and falls.
Work schedules are another important reflection of working conditions, and the operational requirements of each industry lead to large differences in hours worked and in part-time versus full-time status. In food services and drinking places, for example, fully 36.5 percent of employees worked part time in 2006 compared with only 2.0 percent in motor vehicles and motor vehicle equipment manufacturing. Table 2 presents industries having relatively high and low percentages of part-time workers.
The low proportion of part-time workers in some manufacturing industries often reflects the continuous nature of the production processes that makes it difficult to adapt the volume of production to short-term fluctuations in product demand. Once begun, it is costly to halt these processes; machinery must be tended and materials must be moved continuously. For example, the chemical manufacturing industry produces many different chemical products through controlled chemical reactions. These processes require chemical operators to monitor and adjust the flow of materials into and out of the line of production. Because production may continue 24 hours a day, 7 days a week under the watchful eyes of chemical operators who work in shifts, full-time workers are more likely to be employed. Retail trade and service industries, on the other hand, have seasonal cycles marked by various events that affect the hours worked, such as school openings or important holidays. During busy times of the year, longer hours are common, whereas slack periods lead to cutbacks in work hours and shorter workweeks. Jobs in these industries are generally appealing to students and others who desire flexible, part-time schedules.
The total number of jobs in the United States in 2006 was 150.6 million. This included 12.2 million self-employed workers, 130,000 unpaid workers in family businesses, and 138.3 million wage and salary jobs-including primary and secondary job holders. The total number of jobs is projected to increase to 166.2 million by 2016, and wage and salary jobs are projected to account for almost 153.3 million of them.
As shown in table 3, wage and salary jobs are the vast majority of all jobs, but they are not evenly divided among the various industries. Education, health, and social services had the largest number of jobs in 2006 with almost 29.1 million. The trade supersector was the second largest, with about 21.2 million jobs, followed by professional and business services with 17.6 million jobs in 2006. Manufacturing accounted for roughly 14.2 million jobs in the United States in 2006. Among the industries covered in the Career Guide, wage and salary employment ranged from only 154,300 in steel manufacturing to over 13.6 million in health care. The three largest industries-education services, health care, and food services and drinking places-together accounted for 38.5 million jobs, over one-quarter of the Nation's wage and salary employment.
Although workers of all ages are employed in each industry, certain industries tend to possess workers of distinct age groups. For the previously mentioned reasons, retail trade employs a relatively high proportion of younger workers to fill part-time and temporary positions. The manufacturing sector, on the other hand, has a relatively high median age because many jobs in the sector require a number of years to learn and perfect specialized skills that do not easily transfer to other industries. Also, manufacturing employment has been declining, providing fewer opportunities for younger workers to get jobs. As a result, more than one-forth of the workers in retail trade were 24 years of age or younger in 2006, compared with only 8.1 percent of workers in manufacturing. Table 4 contrasts the age distribution of workers in all industries with the distributions in five very different industries.
Employment in some industries is concentrated in a few regions of the country. Such industries often are located near a source of raw or unfinished materials upon which the industry relies. For example, oil and gas extraction jobs are concentrated in Texas, Louisiana, and Oklahoma; many textile mills and products manufacturing jobs are found in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia; and a significant proportion of motor vehicle manufacturing jobs are located in Michigan and Ohio. On the other hand, some industries-such as grocery stores and educational services-have jobs distributed throughout the Nation, reflecting the general population density.
Occupations in the Industry
The occupations found in each industry depend on the types of services provided or goods produced. For example, because construction companies require skilled trades workers to build and renovate buildings, these companies employ large numbers of carpenters, electricians, plumbers, painters, and sheet metal workers. Other occupations common to construction include construction equipment operators and mechanics, installers, and repairers. Retail trade, on the other hand, displays and sells manufactured goods to consumers. As a result, retail trade employs numerous retail salespersons and other workers, including more than three-fourths of all cashiers. Table 5 shows the industry sectors and the occupational groups that predominate in each.
The Nation's occupational distribution clearly is influenced by its industrial structure, yet there are many occupations, such as general managers or secretaries, that are found in all industries. In fact, some of the largest occupations in the U.S. economy are dispersed across many industries. For example, professional and related occupations is the largest major group of occupations in the Nation while also experiencing the fastest growth rate. (See table 6.) Other large major occupational groups include service occupations, office and administrative support occupations, sales and related occupations, and management, business, and financial occupations.
Training and Advancement
Workers prepare for employment in many ways, but the most fundamental form of job training in the United States is a high school education. Better than 88 percent of the Nation's workforce possessed a high school diploma or its equivalent in 2006. However, many occupations require more training, so growing numbers of workers pursue additional training or education after high school. In 2006, 28.7 percent of the Nation's workforce reported having completed some college or an associate's degree as their highest level of education, while an additional 30.2 percent continued in their studies and attained a bachelor's or higher degree. In addition to these types of formal education, other sources of qualifying training include formal company-provided training, apprenticeships, informal on-the-job training, correspondence courses, Armed Forces vocational training, and non-work-related training.
The unique combination of training required to succeed in each industry is determined largely by the industry's production process and the mix of occupations it requires. For example, manufacturing employs many machine operators who generally need little formal education after high school, but sometimes complete considerable on-the-job training. In contrast, educational services employs many types of teachers, most of whom require a bachelor's or higher degree. Training requirements by industry sector are shown in table 7.
Persons with no more than a high school diploma accounted for about 64.5 percent of all workers in construction; 62.3 percent in agriculture, forestry, fishing, and hunting; 61.3 percent in accommodation and food services; 58.8 percent in mining; 53.9 percent in administrative and support and waste management services; and 52.3 in transportation and warehousing. On the other hand, those who had acquired a bachelor's or higher degree accounted for 63.6 percent of all workers in private educational services; 61.9 percent in professional, scientific, and technical services; 46.3 percent in finance and insurance; and 42.8 percent in information.
Education and training also are important factors in the variety of advancement paths found in different industries. Each industry has some unique advancement paths, but workers who complete additional on-the-job training or education generally help their chances of being promoted. In much of the manufacturing sector, for example, production workers who receive training in management and computer skills increase their likelihood of being promoted to supervisory positions. Other factors that impact advancement and that may figure prominently in the industries covered in the Career Guide include the size of the establishments, institutionalized career tracks, and the mix of occupations. As a result, persons who seek jobs in particular industries should be aware of how these advancement paths and other factors may later shape their careers.
Like other characteristics, earnings differ by industry as a result of a highly complicated process that reflects a number of factors. For example, earnings may vary due to the nature of the occupations in the industry, average hours worked, geographical location, workers' average age, educational requirements, industry profits, and the degree of union representation of the workforce. In general, wages are highest in metropolitan areas to compensate for the higher cost of living. Also, as would be expected, industries that employ a large proportion of unskilled minimum-wage or part time workers tend to have lower earnings.
The difference in earnings between software publishers and the food services and drinking places industries illustrates how various characteristics of industries can result in great differences in earnings. In software publishers, earnings of all wage and salary workers averaged $1,444 a week in 2006, while in food services and drinking places, earnings of all wage and salary workers averaged only $215 weekly. The difference is large primarily because software publishing establishments employ more highly skilled, full-time workers, while food services and drinking places employ many lower skilled workers on a part time basis. In addition, most workers in software publishing are paid an annual salary, while many workers in food services and drinking places are paid an hourly wage, but many are able to supplement their low hourly wage rate with money they receive as tips. Table 8 highlights the industries with the highest and lowest average weekly earnings.
Employee benefits, once a minor addition to wages and salaries, continue to grow in diversity and cost. In addition to traditional benefits-paid vacations, life and health insurance, and pensions-many employers now offer various benefits to accommodate the needs of a changing labor force. Such benefits sometimes include childcare, employee assistance programs that provide counseling for personal problems, and wellness programs that encourage exercise, stress management, and self-improvement. Benefits vary among occupational groups, full- and part-time workers, public and private sector workers, regions, unionized and nonunionized workers, and small and large establishments. Data indicate that full-time workers and those in medium-sized and large establishments-those with 100 or more workers-usually receive better benefits than do part-time workers and those in smaller establishments.
Union representation of the workforce varies widely by industry, and it also may play a role in determining earnings and benefits. In 2006, about 13.2 percent of workers throughout the Nation were union members or covered by union contracts. As table 9 demonstrates, union affiliation of workers varies widely by industry. 51.6 percent of the workers in air transportation were union members, the highest rate of all the industries, followed by 37.6 percent in educational services, and 34.4 percent in public administration. Industries with the lowest unionization rate include computer systems design and related services, 1.7 percent: food services and drinking places, 1.5 percent; and internet service providers, web search portals, and data processing services and software publishing, both with virtually no union workers.
Total wage and salary employment in the United States is projected to increase by about 10.8 percent over the 2006-16 period. Employment growth, however, is only one source of job openings. The total number of openings in any industry also depends on the industry's current employment level and its need to replace workers who leave their jobs. Throughout the economy, replacement needs will create more job openings than will employment growth. Employment size is a major determinant of job openings-larger industries generally have larger numbers of workers who must be replaced and provide more openings. The occupational composition of an industry is another factor. Industries with high concentrations of professional, technical, and other jobs that require more formal education-occupations in which workers tend to leave their jobs less frequently-generally have fewer openings resulting from replacement needs. On the other hand, more replacement openings generally occur in industries with high concentrations of service, laborer, and other jobs that require little formal education and have lower wages because workers in these jobs are more likely to leave their occupations.
Employment growth is determined largely by changes in the demand for the goods and services provided by an industry, worker productivity, and foreign competition. Each industry is affected by a different set of variables that determines the number and composition of jobs that will be available. Even within an industry, employment may grow at different rates in different occupations. For example, changes in technology, production methods, and business practices in an industry might eliminate some jobs while creating others. Some industries may be growing rapidly overall, yet opportunities for workers in occupations could be stagnant or even declining because they are adversely affected by technological change. Similarly, employment of some occupations may be declining in the economy as a whole, yet may be increasing in a rapidly growing industry.
As shown above in table 3, employment growth rates over the next decade will vary widely among industries. Natural resources, construction, and utilities are primarily expected to grow due to growth in construction, offsetting job declines in agriculture, mining, and utilities. Growth in construction employment will stem from new factory construction as existing facilities are modernized; from new school construction, reflecting growth in the school-age population; and from infrastructure improvements, such as road and bridge construction. Employment in agriculture, forestry, and fishing should continue to decrease with consolidation of farm land, increasing worker productivity, and depletion of wild fish stocks. Employment in mining is expected to decline due to the use of new laborsaving technology and with the continued reliance on foreign sources of energy.
Employment in manufacturing is expected to decline overall with some growth in selected manufacturing industries. Employment declines are expected in chemical manufacturing, except drugs; computer and electronic product manufacturing; machinery manufacturing; motor vehicle and parts manufacturing; printing; steel manufacturing; and textile, textile product, and apparel manufacturing. Textile, textile product, and apparel manufacturing is projected to lose about 211,000 jobs over the 2006-16 period-more than any other manufacturing industry-due primarily to increasing imports replacing domestic products.
Employment gains are expected in some manufacturing industries. Small employment gains in food manufacturing are expected, as a growing and ever more diverse population increases the demand for manufactured food products. Employment growth in pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing is expected as sales of pharmaceuticals increase with growth in the population-particularly among the elderly-and with the introduction of new medicines to the market. Both food and pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing also have growing export markets. Aerospace product and parts manufacturing is expected to have modest employment increases as well.
Growth in overall employment will result primarily from growth in service-providing industries over the 2006-16 period, almost all of which are expected to have increasing employment. Job growth is expected to be led by health care and educational services-the two largest industries discussed in the Career Guid. Large numbers of new jobs also are expected in food services and drinking places; social assistance, except child day care; management, scientific, and technical consulting services; employment services, state and local government, except education and health care; arts entertainment, and recreation; computer systems design and related services; and wholesale trade. When combined, these sectors will account for nearly two-thirds of all new wage and salary jobs across the Nation. Employment growth is expected in many other service-providing industries discussed in the Career Guide, but they will result in far fewer numbers of new jobs.
Health care will account for the most new wage and salary jobs, almost 3.0 million over the 2006-16 period. Population growth, advances in medical technologies that increase the number of treatable diseases, and a growing share of the population in older age groups will drive employment growth. General medical and surgical hospitals, public and private-the largest health care industry group-is expected to account for about 691,000 of these new jobs.
Educational services is expected to grow by 10.7 percent over the 2006-16 period, adding about 1.4 million new jobs. A growing emphasis on improving education and making it available to more children and young adults will be the primary factors contributing to employment growth. Employment growth is expected at all levels of education, particularly at the postsecondary level, as children of the baby boomers continue to reach college age, and as more adults pursue continuing education to enhance or update their skills.
Employment in the Nation's fastest growing industry-management, scientific, and technical consulting services-is expected to increase by almost 78 percent, adding another 718,000 jobs over the 2006-16 period. Projected job growth can be attributed primarily to economic growth and to the continuing complexity of business. A growing number of businesses means increased demand for advice in all areas of business operations and planning.
The food services and drinking places industry is expected to add over 1.0 million new jobs over the 2006-16 projection period. Increases in population, dual-income families, and dining sophistication will contribute to job growth. In addition, the increasing diversity of the population will contribute to job growth in food services and drinking places that offer a wider variety of ethnic foods and drinks.
Almost 617,000 new jobs are expected to arise in State and local government, except education and health care, growth of almost 8 percent over the 2006-16 period. Job growth will result primarily from growth in the population and its demand for public services. Additional job growth will result as State and local governments continue to receive greater responsibility from the Federal Government for administering federally funded programs.
Wholesale trade is expected to add over 428,000 new jobs over the coming decade, reflecting growth both in trade and in the overall economy. Most new jobs will be for sales representatives at the wholesale and manufacturing levels. However, industry consolidation and the growth of electronic commerce using the Internet are expected to limit job growth to 7.3 percent over the 2006-16 period, less than the 10.8 percent projected for all industries.
Continual changes in the economy have far-reaching and complex effects on employment in each of the industries covered in the Career Guide. Jobseekers should be aware of these changes, keeping alert for developments that can affect job opportunities in industries and the variety of occupations that are found in each industry. For more detailed information on specific occupations, consult the 2008-09 edition of the Occupational Outlook Handbook, which provides information on hundreds of occupations.
Last Modified Date: March 12, 2008