The four eras of American jobs, in one century-spanning chart

Another day at the office.
Another day at the office.
Image: Reuters/Ralph Orlowski
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In the 1950s, the health care industry accounted for only around 3% of jobs in America. Today, it’s nearly 13% of the labor market. At the current pace of growth, health care jobs will surpass retail jobs for the first time near the end of this year.

While agriculture jobs dominated the private-sector labor market in the 19th century, manufacturing had its moment in the 20th century, and retail reigned in the first part of the 21st century, the future belongs to health care.

The combination of an aging population and increasingly sophisticated treatments for chronic conditions will make health care jobs grow faster than any other major industry (pdf) in the coming decades. The US Bureau of Labour Statistics forecasts that health-related jobs will grow at an annual rate of almost 2% through 2024, versus 0.5% annual growth for jobs overall. The most common and fastest growing types of health care jobs are nurses, nursing assistances, and personal care aides; there are also many more office clerks and receptionists who work in the medical sector than doctors.

If US president Donald Trump is serious about promoting job growth, he should spend more time at hospitals and nursing homes, and less at factories and coal mines.