The Shifting Trends in Employment
A new report finds that white-collar jobs draw far more applicants than do blue-collar positions.
By Andrew R. McIlvaine
Jobs and the fate of middle class occupations took up a big chunk of attention during last year's presidential campaign, and for good reason: The traditional pathways to prosperity for the average American worker have eroded sharply, while the jobs and professions that do offer a middle class income require substantially more education and training than did the factory jobs of the last century.
This is reflected in the latest U.S. Hiring Trends Report from iCIMS, which finds that nearly 10 percent of the open positions in the manufacturing industry last year were focused on computers and math, compared to only 1 percent or less of the open positions in healthcare and retail. The report is based on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and from iCIMS' 3,500 customers.
"The manufacturing industry has changed greatly," says Josh Wright, chief economist at iCIMS and a former staff economist at the Federal Reserve. "Assembly line work constitutes just over a fifth of the actual occupations being hired for in that industry."
However, blue-collar positions in manufacturing and other industries tend to draw substantially fewer applicants than open positions for white-collar occupations: White-collar jobs received up to 35 applicants per open position, compared to 21 applicants per open position for blue-collar and service-oriented "pink-collar" jobs, the report finds. Managerial positions in human resources and marketing received the largest numbers of applicants per open position, at 75 and 57, respectively.
"HR and marketing were in a league of their own with respect to the number of applicants those open positions attracted," says Wright. "There are either a lot of people out there who want to break into those fields and think they can because those jobs seem to require softer skills, or there are a lot of eager beavers within the rank and file who want to move up into management."
The report also finds that part-time and contingent work is prevalent in the retail and healthcare industries. Healthcare employers, in particular, are hiring lots of contingent workers, accounting for the largest portion of contingent positions at 18 percent compared to 4 percent among other industries.
"There's a lot of uncertainty around demand for services in healthcare -- you can't predict when people are going to be sick," says Wright.
The demand for contingent workers in healthcare will most likely continue to grow, he says.
"The growing number of Americans who are 'aging in place' [staying in their homes rather than moving to an assisted living facility] means the industry is going to need more semi-skilled people who can come in to support them, and those workers tend to be on the contingent side," says Wright. "At the same time, the industry is also under tremendous pressure to bring down costs, and that will also contribute to demand for these workers."
One of the biggest takeaways for recruiters from the report, says Wright, is the need to examine their recruitment-marketing strategies for blue-collar positions.
"The disparity in the number of applicants for white-collar versus blue-collar jobs underlines the need for better intelligence on source-of-hire: Are you making the most of your spend? Are you overspending on recruitment marketing for white- collar jobs while underspending for blue-collar?"