Occupational change in North Carolina

Many say the job market is changing rapidly and that future workers may change what they do — their occupation — several times during their work career. NC State University economist Mike Walden explains what he’s found as he’s looked closely at occupations in North Carolina.

“Well, I looked at occupational change from 2002 to 2015, and several things popped out at me when I examined the numbers. First of all, we do have a lot of occupational change. In fact, roughly half of the occupations added employment during those years, and about half declined in employment during those years.

“I also found unfortunately that the wage rate paid for those downsizing occupations exceeded the wage rate paid for those occupations that expanded over that time period. So that’s a concern in North Carolina and in fact in the nation.

“One very interesting thing I found, though, is during recessions that flipped. That is to say that during recessions, first of all, a lot of occupations added jobs, and secondly they paid much higher wages than the occupations that were downsizing. And I think what that says is that during recessions, businesses, of course, many of them are on life support; they are looking simply to survive. So businesses, contrary to what many might think, really go out and look for good talent, because they need competent and skilled workers, perhaps moreso than during expansionary periods, in order to stay alive.

“And then the last finding that came out was that I did find that there was a relationship between those occupations that had downsized in terms of employment and a measure of what’s called technological change — that is to say, the possibility that the occupation could be done not by humans but by technology. I did find a relationship there, and I think that’s a major concern for the future.”

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