Career Prospects in Selected Industries

Monthly Labor Review, April 1993 | Go to article overview

Career Prospects in Selected Industries


Whether choosing a career or searching for a job, it is helpful to know about the distinctive mix of occupations in industries in States or communities and the jobs associated with each. The Career Guide to Industries, the latest addition to the Bureau of Labor Statistics array of vocational guidance publications, examines employment opportunities in 40 industries which accounted for almost two-thirds of all wage and salary jobs in 1990. The Guide provides a detailed discussion, along with current statistics, covering the nature of the industry, and its employment and occupations, working conditions, required training and advancement potential, earnings and benefits, and outlook for future job openings.

Nature of the industry. The types of occupations in each industry depend on the types of services or goods the industry produces. For example, manufacturing companies use machinery and other industrial equipment to make goods and, hence, need workers to operate the equipment. Typical manufacturing occupations include assemblers, inspectors, machine setters, and material movers. Retail trade, on the other hand, displays manufactured goods for consumers to buy and needs workers such as salesclerks, cashiers, and stock clerks.

In 1990, there were more than 6 million business establishments in the United States--an increase of more than 26 percent since 1981. Some industries characteristically have small establishments employing few workers, and others have mainly large firms employing many workers. The size of an establishment is important to employees. Large establishments offer greater occupational mobility and advancement potential, whereas small firms offer more interpersonal contact among workers. Also, many small establishments are distributed throughout the Nation---every locality has a few--while large establishments are usually located in certain areas.

Although U.S. establishments are predominantly small (5 8 percent of them employed fewer than five workers in 1990), medium to large firms employ a greater proportion of all workers. For example, establishments with 50 or more workers accounted for only 5 percent of all establishments, yet they employed almost 61 percent of all workers. One industry division, manufacturing, included 9 of the 12 industries having the highest employment per establishment in 1990. The majority of small establishments belong to the retail trade and service industries.

Some industries are concentrated in certain regions of the country, for example, oil and gas extraction (in Texas, Louisiana, and Oklahoma) or metal mining (in Nevada, Arizona, and Minnesota). In these and in many other regionally concentrated industries, the establishments locate near a source of raw materials upon which they rely. Other industries, such as grocery stores, appear throughout the country.

Employment. Wage and salary worker employment in the United States surpassed 112 million in 1990, and by 2005 it is projected to exceed 135 million. The accompanying table shows how employment divides up among the various industries and predicts how employment in each industry will change from 1990 to 2005. Industries employing the most workers usually have the greatest number of job openings, but sometimes an extraordinary number of young workers within an industry causes an exceptionally large number of openings because younger workers tend to be less settled into jobs and careers and thus more likely to move on to other jobs. Working conditions. In some industries, the workplace can be quiet, temperature-controlled, and virtually hazard free. In others, the work environment can be noisy, uncomfortably hot or cold, and sometimes very dangerous. Some industries require long workweeks and shift work; others have standard 35- to 40hour workweeks. Jobs in still other industries can be seasonal, requiring long hours during busy periods and abbreviated schedules during slower months. …

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