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Occupational staffing patterns within industries through the year 2000.

Occupational Staffing Patterns Within Industries Through the Year 2000

Why does employment in some occupations grow rapidly while employment in others grows slowly or even declines? One obvious cause is the growth or lack of growth of the industries in which the occupations are concentrated. For example, when the hospital industry grows, so does the employment of nurses. Less obviously, employment changes in many occupations also depend on changes in an industry's staffing pattern, that is, the proportion of the industry's workers in particular occupations. For example, in most industries, the employment of computer programmers and systems analysts has increased relative to the employment of other workers. In manufacturing industries, however, employment in many production occupations has declined as a proportion of employment because of automation. An occupation's share of employment in an industry can decline even if the occupation's overall employment is growing. For example, the proportion of physicians in the hospital and health services industries declined in the 1980's even though the total employment of physicians rose.

Knowledge of staffing patterns is important for several reasons. Determining changes in them is crucial to the development of the projections published in the Occupational Outlook Handbook and "The Job Outlook in Brief." Information on them, therefore, provides insight into how those projections were developed. Data on staffing patterns are also used by the economists who develop employment projections for each State. These State-level projections in return are used along with the national projections by planners when deciding to expand or contract State-funded training programs. Counselors and others interested in employment trends within the economy can also use this information to improve their understanding of the ways in which occupations will change in relative importance during the coming decade.

Projections of occupational employment and changes in staffing patterns are prepared by the Bureau of Labor Statistics every 2 years. The latest series of projections covers the 1988-2000 period. For the majority of the nearly 500 occupations for which the Bureau developed projections, staffing patterns are expected to remain unchanged between 1988 and 2000. However, about 100 occupations are projected to gain a larger share of the work force in the industries in which they are concentrated, and about 125 occupations are projected to lose employment relative to other occupations. All the occupations expected to change are listed in the accompanying tables.

Factors for Change

Six factors underlie most of the expected changes in staffing patterns. Beginning with the most important, they include the following:

* The growing use of computers and other

automation and technological change * Changes in business practices * Increases in research and development

expenditures * Demographic trends * Changes in the way medical care is

provided * Trends in law, law enforcement, and

government regulations

Many of the expected changes result from the increasing importance of workers who gather and use information and the decreasing need for those who perform repetitive tasks that can be automated or computerized. Thus, the projections point to a continuation of the shift away from lesser educated manual and clerical workers towards more highly educated and trained "knowledge" workers. Workers with technical training will be in greater demand to use new technologies in many industries, particularly in health care, computer services, and electronics. The effects of the principal factors on particular industries and occupations are discussed below. A few occupations are expected to be affected by factors other than those discussed here. Information about them is included in the publications listed at the end of the article.


Each of the six factors accounting for a change in staffing patterns is expected to contribute to the growth of particular occupations.

The growing use of computers and other technological change is evident throughout the economy, as improvements to hardware and software make computers more versatile and cheaper to use. Packaged software systems are increasingly used for a variety of purposes. For example, telephone networks are now completely digital, library card catalogs can be accessed by computers, and office tasks are increasingly performed with word processors. As a result, the employment of computer programmers, computer systems analysts, and data processing equipment repairers is projected to increase relative to other occupations in virtually all industries. Programmers will be needed to write new programs, systems analysts will be needed to integrate various components into coherent systems, and more equipment repairers--especially data processing equipment repairers--will be required to maintain the hardware.

Although automation and technological change often result in relatively fewer workers in production occupations, some occupations grow as a result of such change. For example, numerical, tool, and process control programmers are expected to increase relative to other occupations in the industries in which these workers are concentrated because the use of numerically controlled machine tools will grow; this equipment is becoming more refined and affordable. Likewise, mill-wrights are expected to increase relative to other occupations in manufacturing industries due to the expected increase in the amount of machinery requiring installation. Also offset lithographic press operators are projected to have a relative gain because of the replacement of letterpresses by newer printing technology.

Changes in business practices arising from factors such as heightened competition and the resulting pressure to cut costs are also expected to cause a relative gain for some occupations. These include several occupations found in many industries, such as cost estimator, economist, statistician, administrative services manager, industrial production manager, operations research analyst, and management consultant. Other occupations are likely to be affected by changes within just one industry or because of shifts of demand between industries. For example, the proportion of actuaries is expected to increase in the insurance industry because of the growing number and complexity of insurance policies and because of the rise in activities relating to investment portfolios. Optical goods workers are projected to realize a larger share of employment in retail stores because of an anticipated increase in the number of stores in which glasses are made on the premises.

Changes in business practices within the legal services industry will affect the role of paralegals. As lawyers have faced mounting time and cost pressures, paralegals have increasingly been relied upon for much of the research and preparation behind a case, work previously done by lawyers and legal secretaries. Because this trend is expected to continue, the relative employment of paralegals is projected to increase.

Medical record technicians will also be affected by changing business practices. Due to changing reimbursement policies that require very precise and accurate coding, this occupation is projected to increase significantly relative to other workers in the health services industry.

Increases in research and development expenditures to discover new and better products, develop more efficient manufacturing techniques, and reduce environmental pollution are expected. This expectation of higher spending underlies the projected relative increases for most engineering and natural science occupations. Some scientific and engineering areas will also be affected by scientific and technological developments that stimulate research. For example, biological and agricultural scientists will benefit from increased research opportunities afforded by developments in biotechnology. Advances in materials science mean that relatively more metallurgical, ceramic, and materials engineers will be needed, along with some specialized physicists. Shifts in meteorological technology are also expected to result in an increase in the relative employment of meteorologists. Continued rapid advances in electronics will increase the relative need for electrical and electronics engineers, technicians, and technologists.

Demographic trends will affect several important occupations. For example, the population of high school age students will increase through the year 2000 as the children of the baby-boom generation reach their teens. Therefore, secondary school teachers are projected to increase their share of employment in education. Respiratory therapists are projected to realize a relative gain in employment in health services industries because of the expected growth in the elderly population, which has greater susceptibility to chronic lung and cardiopulmonary problems. Likewise, shoe and leather workers and repairers are projected to increase in relative employment because of the increasing number of elderly people; they are more likely to have foot problems, requiring custom-made shoes.

Many health occupations will be affected by changes in the way medical care is provided as well as by demographic trends and technological advances. For example, the share of employment held by surgical technologists will increase significantly because more surgery is expected to be performed. Due to an anticipated increase in the demand for outpatient services, relative gains are also projected for both occupational therapists and physical therapists.

The use of new and improved medical technology in hospitals will result in other occupational shifts within the health care industry. New areas of neurodiagnostic testing--such as surgical monitoring, sleep tracing, and brain mapping--underlie the projected increase of EEG technologists in hospitals relative to most other medical occupations. The same holds true for radiologic technologists and technicians as hospitals increasingly use non-invasive diagnostic techniques and technological advances. Electromedical and biomedical equipment repairers are also projected to increase their share of employment due to the use of more sophisticated equipment in hospitals.

There are significant trends in law, law enforcement, and government regulation that will affect occupations. Concern about personal safety and the protection of property will probably increase. In addition, the marked increase in litigation is expected to continue even while efforts are taken to reduce the tremendous backlog of cases waiting to be heard. Furthermore, the enforcement of environmental and other regulations is likely to result in a significant increase in the relative employment of correction officers, jailers, and paralegals. Other occupations expected to increase in relative employment are court clerk; detective and investigator; inspector and compliance officer; judge, magistrate, and other judicial worker; and lawyer.


Occupations that are projected to realize relative employment declines can be grouped into two broad categories. The first group consists of administrative support occupations, including statistical clerks, directory assistance operators, and typists. The primary reason for the projected relative declines for these occupations is the rise in productivity brought about by computerization and office automation. Due to the rapid introduction of computers in most offices and increasingly sophisticated computer software packages, fewer clerical workers will be required to accomplish the same amount of clerical work. Word and data processing will increasingly be used for computation and recordkeeping. Office mail, timeclocks, and filing systems will be gradually converted to electronic systems. Computerized telephone operations are becoming universal and data entry technology is advancing. Another factor contributing to the relative decline of clerical workers is the growing tendency of professionals to do their own word processing. This has resulted in a noticeable change from traditional staffing patterns, when secretaries composed a large proportion of employment in nearly all offices.

The second group of occupations that are projected to decline in relative importance are manufacturing and production occupations, including equipment assemblers, installers, and repairers; machine operators and tenders; and other manual workers. Employment of these workers is expected to decrease relative to other workers in the industries in which they are employed because of improved worker productivity due to automation of manufacturing and other technological advances. Advances in manufacturing technology are expected to continue, resulting in relative declines for most manufacturing production occupations, especially occupations with lower skill levels. The relative importance of some repairers and installers is projected to decline because the low cost of some products makes them uneconomical to repair and the increased reliability of other products lowers their maintenance requirements. An additional factor contributing to the projected relative declines of some types of production workers, such as machine assemblers and electrical and electronic equipment assemblers, is the trend toward moving production to countries where wages are lower.

Information in the Tables

The following pages contain tables that show the individual occupations that are projected to experience changes in staffing patterns between 1988 and 2000 and the reason that the pattern is expected to change. The projected overall change in employment is also listed so that changes in staffing patterns will not be confounded with total employment.

The tables group projected increases and decreases in staffing patterns by the size of the changes, that is, small, moderate, or significant, relative to all occupations.

The phrases used to describe overall change in employment between 1988 and 2000 are the same as those used in the Occupational Outlook Handbook and "The Job Outlook in Brief." [Tabular data omitted]

Liesel Brand is an economist in the Office of Employment Projections, BLS.
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Author:Brand, Liesel
Publication:Occupational Outlook Quarterly
Date:Jun 22, 1990
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