Home health aides, administrative assistants, and fast food servers: these are some of the occupations that are going to grow the most in the coming years. As the Atlantic’s Derek Thompson explained last month, "just a handful of occupations—personal care aides, registered nurses, nursing assistants, and home health aides (all in health care), along with retail salespeople and food-prep workers—will account for one-in-six new jobs in the next decade."
The boom of these low-skill jobs can be seen as part of a fundamental, larger shift in the what and where of America’s workforce. Today, America is growing both low-wage, low-skill service jobs and high-wage, knowledge-intensive positions. The next decade will see the job market continue to split along these lines. There will be fewer and fewer solid, working-class jobs that helped build this nation’s broad middle class during the 1950s, 60s and 70s.
My Martin Prosperity Institute colleague Charlotta Mellander used these BLS baseline projections to project job growth for all of America's 350-plus metros over the next decade. MPI’s Zara Matheson mapped the data.
The graph above shows the growth of jobs in America across three broad occupational classes – the creative class, service class, and working class – over the past half century. The trend could not be clearer. Working class jobs, which include those in factory production, construction and transportation, have declined from half the workforce to about 20 percent.
High-paying, knowledge-based creative class jobs in science and technology, business and management, the professions, arts, media, and entertainment have increased from just 15 percent of jobs to more than a third. Lower-paying service jobs in fields like retail sales, food prep, and personal care have increased from 30 percent to nearly half of all jobs.
These basic trends will continue over the next decade. Between 2012 and 2022, the U.S. will add 15.6 million new jobs, according to BLS projections, with the overall workforce growing by 10.8 percent from 145 to 161 million. Of these, 5.6 million will be high-wage, creative class positions. The creative class will grow by 12.5 percent, the highest rate of all groups. The country will add another 7.4 million low-wage, low-skill service jobs, a 10.5 percent growth rate. Finally, the country will add 2.7 million blue-collar, service-class jobs – with most of that growth in construction and transportation jobs. The overall working class job market will grow 9.1 percent. Of these, just 75,000 will be in direct production work; the high paying factory jobs that provided the backbone of the middle class a generation ago will see a growth rate of less than 1 percent. By 2022, production workers will make up just 5.5 percent of the American workforce.
Tracking Job Growth Across the Country
The map above looks at the overall picture, tracking where employment is projected to grow the most and the least over the next eight years. Forty-five percent of metros (179) will experience employment growth greater than the national average of 10.8 percent. The darkest blue areas are along the East Coast, in parts of Florida, and in the energy-driven metros of Texas and the Midwest. The metros that will add jobs at the fastest rate include mainly smaller metros like Duluth, Minnesota; McAllen, Texas; and Greenville, North Carolina. College towns like Morgantown, West Virginia; Durham-Chapel Hill, North Carolina; and Ann Arbor, Michigan are also projected to experience a relatively high rate of job growth. The large metros that will add jobs at the fastest rate are the big three of the Bos-Wash corridor: Boston, D.C. and New York. The slowest growth is projected in the Midwest, parts of the old South, and central California.
These overall figures do not provide a clear sense of the kinds of jobs that will grow in specific metros and regions of the country. To get at that, the next set of maps tracks the growth rates for the three broad classes of jobs. We looked at first the creative class and then the service and working classes.
Note that the color scales are different for each graph, as we track, by quartiles, the metros that will see high, medium, and low rates of growth in each class of jobs over the course of the next decade.
The news is both good and bad. Though they are not distributed evenly across the country, creative class jobs are generally growing faster. In a few places that are projected to see overall lower levels of job growth, including much of the South and some of the old Rustbelt, creative class jobs are actually growing faster than they are in other regions. But in many economically vibrant coastal metros, this creative class job growth goes hand in hand with low-skill, service-class job creation.
The first map, above, charts the projected percentage change in creative class employment by metro. Most metros will see substantial growth in their creative class jobs. More than eight in ten metros will see creative class job growth higher than the national average of 12.5 percent. But, clearly, some will lag far behind.
The blue and teal scattered throughout the metros of Florida, the South, and parts of the Midwest are positive signs. These are economies that today rely mainly on service and some manufacturing jobs, and they are starting off with relatively lower levels of creative class jobs in 2012. Many of these metros have struggled to regain a foothold in the new knowledge economy in the wake of deindustrialization, and these projected growth rates are a sign of rebirth. Far more troubling is the yellow and green spread in parts of the Sunbelt – especially Arizona and California – as well as a few economically vibrant East Coast metros. Though these metros are sometimes building on a stronger base, their relatively anemic projected growth in high-paying creative class jobs is something to keep an eye on.
The second map tracks the projected explosive growth of service-sector jobs. Slightly more than 30 percent of metros will see service class growth higher than the national average of 10.5 percent. Notice how much blue and teal there is on the map along the East Coast’s Bos-Wash corridor. This shows the reality of America’s increasingly bifurcated job market, with a growing split between good and bad jobs (and, in fact, a symbiosis between these two in many places).
Greater New York may be home to a large share of the country’s super-rich, but it is also projected to be the large metro that will see the fastest growth in low-wage service jobs. Other locations that are projected to see high levels of service-class job growth appear in the old industrial regions of the country – upstate New York, Ohio, Michigan, and other parts of the Midwest and Rocky Mountains. These are the places where good working-class jobs have been eliminated, and where employment growth will continue to be dominated by low-paying, insecure service class jobs.
The final map in the series charts the projected growth of jobs in blue-collar working class jobs (recall this includes construction and transportation jobs, which are projected to grow much faster than factory jobs). Almost 40 percent of metros are projected to see working class job growth higher than the national average of 9.1 percent. These jobs are projected to grow the fastest in parts of the Sunbelt, especially Florida; the energy-powered metros of the Gulf Coast, Texas, and the Rocky Mountains; and some metros along the coasts. This reflects the boom of construction and transportation jobs in these relatively fast growing metros. These include metros like Midland and Odessa, Texas; Grand Junction, Colorado; Santa Fe, New Mexico; and Fairbanks, Alaska. The large metro where blue-collar jobs are projected to grow the fastest is greater Washington, D.C. Troublingly, growth in blue-collar jobs will be far more limited in many of the Midwestern Rustbelt metros that once relied on the working class for their economic vitality.
The Future of America's Class Geography
The growth patterns in the graphs above will add up over time, leading to subtle shifts in the class compositions of various U.S. metros. In the main, the next decade will reinforce the patterns we have begun to see today, amplifying the emerging split between high-paying creative class workers and low-paying service class workers. The maps below chart the projected share that each of the three broad occupational classes is projected to represent across the U.S. in 2022.
The first map looks at the projected creative class share in 2022. This map provides a stark picture of the great and growing geographic divide in America brought on by the concentration of knowledge, creativity and skill. The share of creative class jobs ranges from 40 or even 50 percent in some metros, to a low of well below 20 percent in others.
The metros with the highest proportion of creative workers are familiar – Boston, Washington and other East Coast metros, and the Bay Area, Seattle and Portland on the West Coast. But other metros will see share of the creative class increase to substantial levels – including parts of Texas, Atlanta, and some Midwest metros. Greater Washington D.C. is projected to top the list in 2022, with nearly half (47 percent) of its workforce in creative class positions. The creative class will make up 40 percent or more of the workforce in Durham-Chapel Hill, North Carolina (45 percent); San Jose, California (45 percent); Ann Arbor, Michigan (44 percent); Trenton-Ewing, New Jersey (43 percent); Boston, Massachusetts (42 percent); Boulder, Colorado (41 percent); and San Francisco, California (40 percent). The metros with the lowest shares of creative-class workers will be in parts of the old South and Sunbelt.
The second map shows the growing role of low-wage service jobs in nearly every part of the country. It identifies the increasing prevalence of these jobs, which are projected to make up more than 60 percent of all positions in some metros. Even at the lowest end of the spectrum, service class jobs will still make up a considerable 35 percent of all workers.
The service class will represent the largest share of the workforce in resort and tourism strongholds of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina (66 percent); Ocean City, New Jersey (65 percent); Punta Gorda, Florida (65 percent); Palm Coast Florida (63 percent); Atlantic City, New Jersey (63 percent); and Las Vegas, Nevada (63 percent). The service class will represent a large share of the workforce in metros across Florida, Texas, and Arizona as well as parts of New York and other East Coast metros.
The final map, above, shows the projected share of working class jobs in 2022. These include construction and transportation jobs, as well as traditional blue-collar positions in factory production. This map shows the tremendous variation in America’s blue-collar workforce, which ranges from more than 45 percent at the high end to just 10 percent at the low end.
The working class will remain the most significant chunk of the workforce in the industrial heartland of the country – the old Midwest and the South, including Elkhart-Goshen, Indiana (46 percent); Dalton, Georgia (44 percent), Houma, Louisiana (40 percent); Odessa, Texas (40 percent); Morristown, Tennessee (39 percent), Decatur, Alabama (36 percent); Longview, Texas (36 percent); and Holland, Michigan (35 percent). Notice how small the working class’s job share will be – well below 20 percent – along much of the East and West Coasts. In knowledge hubs like Boston, Washington, and San Francisco, blue-collar jobs will represent just slightly more than 10 percent of all workers. Parts of Florida, Texas, and Las Vegas will similarly have relatively lower proportions of working class jobs. By 2022, blue-collar jobs will make up less and less of the workforce in the old industrial heartland – 19 percent in Buffalo; 21 percent in Pittsburgh; and 21 percent in Detroit.