Economic Snapshot Overview by Dr. Reid Cummings - February 2020

Posted on February 28, 2020 by Dr. Reid Cummings
Dr. Reid Cummings

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Greetings, and welcome to the February 2020 Mobile Bay Economic Snapshot.

At the beginning of any new year, and certainly at the beginning of a new decade, it is always interesting to think about what lies ahead. Although future predictions abound, the most interesting ones offer insights into not just what the future holds, but how it will look different both from today and recent history. This month we are delighted to introduce our newest dashboard developed by Jana Stupavsky and her team which focuses on occupations. Future variants of this dashboard will include occupational data for a broader region, but for now, we focus only on Mobile and Baldwin Counties.

Before we look forward though, first we take peek in the rearview mirror. For the 5 years from 2015-2019, the occupation showing the largest jobs increase was customer service reps with 1,179 new jobs. In second place was fast food workers with 982 new jobs, followed by registered nurses in third place with 893 new jobs. In fourth place with 634 new jobs was laborers and material movers, trailed by personal care aides in fifth place with 576 new jobs.

Looking to the future though, the landscape changes quite a bit. For the 5 years from 2020-2025, expectations are that fast food workers will add the most jobs, but only about two-thirds of those created from 2015-2019. The registered nurse’s occupation shows a strong second with an expected 517 new jobs, followed by personal care aides with 485 new jobs. Customer service reps, with a predicted 430 new jobs, and waitstaff with a forecasted 407 new jobs, round out fourth and fifth places respectively.

A closer inspection, however, reveals a most interesting detail: 8 of the top 20 occupations from 2015-2019 fall completely out of the top 20 going forward. Cashiers, heavy truck drivers, construction supervisors, delivery drivers, administrative supervisors, sales reps, claims adjusters, and secondary school teachers are replaced in the future top 20 by janitors, medical assistants, home health aides, landscapers, housekeepers, medical secretaries, nursing assistants, and stock clerks. Note that half of these new top 20 entrants are health industry related.

A discussion about future occupations seems incomplete without a similar discussion about earnings potential. Although predicting future wages is complex and beyond the scope of this article, it can be insightful to examine recent wage growth trends. Those following national economic news understand that wages have risen faster for many blue-collar jobs than for white-collar jobs. Our dashboard bears this out, showing that of the top 20 occupations predicted for 2020-2025, 7 blue-collar jobs experienced wage growth over the last 5 years exceeding 40%: laborers and material movers (+49.5%); construction laborers (+46.9%); waitstaff (+46.8%); janitors (+42.7%); security guards (+41.9%); fast food workers (+40.9%); and cooks (+40.1%). 

Finally, by looking at help-wanted advertisements, it is possible to develop a keen sense of the types of occupations most in demand by employers. Although heavy truck drivers did not make the top 20 future occupations list, it did win the job advertisement competition. Over the last six months, more than 31,000 Mobile and Baldwin County job postings were for heavy truck drivers. The decade ended with Mobile County unemployment at 3.2% and Baldwin County unemployment at 2.4%. This helps to illustrate the point that although some occupations will grow in the future at the expense of others, our historically low unemployment environment rates continue to put pressure on many companies who simply cannot find enough workers.

Until next time, from everyone at the Center, we wish you and yours all the best.

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