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WORKING HYPOTHESIS

These jobs grew way faster than statisticians predicted

By Dan Kopf

Every two years, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) publishes its projections on the jobs they expect to grow or decline over the next decade. The point of the projections are to help workers and officials prepare for the future. If an American wants to know whether there will be a job for them if they become a wind turbine technician or a nurse practitioner, these projections suggest that work will be plentiful. For people with their heart set on watch repair or parking enforcement, the numbers are less encouraging.

Of course, as the saying goes, it is difficult to make predictions, especially about the future. The number crunchers at the BLS recently released data on jobs that grew even faster than they expected between 2006 to 2016. These jobs, like software application engineer, skincare specialists and mental health counselors, were vocations that BLS was confident would expand when it drew up its projections 10 years ago, but they underestimated future demand for these services.

The BLS’s assessment of its projections in the 10 years to 2016 shows that when they guessed that a certain job would grow faster than average, they were only right about 57% of the time. That’s not great, but the bureau persists. In early 2018, it released the list of jobs projected to grow the fastest between 2016 and 2026. Of the 10 jobs at the top of the list, only statistician and software application developer are not in the healthcare/elder-care industry.

Given the aging of the US population, BLS is likely correct that health-focused occupations will grow significantly. Yet it is possible that new technologies or medical breakthroughs will make home health aides less needed than expected, by allowing people to better take of themselves. It’s equally likely that technology and medicine will keep people alive even longer, but in feeble states, and make home health aides even more necessary. We’ll know which scenario is correct ten years from now.