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South Dakota e-Labor Bulletin
Employment Trends in Broad Occupational Groups: A Decade of Change
Occupational employment data from the Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS) program can be used to analyze trends in the work people do. Employment trends in a specific occupation of interest are one important consideration for a variety of purposes—from someone exploring career options to those planning educational or training programs designed to prepare workers for the occupation. But a more macro analysis of employment trends in broad occupational groups found in the labor market can lend insight into general economic trends.
We studied employment in 2010 and 2020 by major groups in the Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) system. The OEWS program collects data for 22 major SOC groups which include a total of about 830 detailed occupations. Our approach to discern trends over time was to look for changes in the distribution of employment among the occupational groups. In other words, we looked at the share of total employment which each occupational group made up in 2010 and then in 2020.
Not surprisingly, the occupational group showing the largest gain in its share of total employment from 2010 to 2020 was Healthcare Practitioners and Technical occupations. This group’s share of employment increased from 6.5% in 2010 to 7.7% in 2020, an increase of 1.2 percentage points. Occupations in the Healthcare Practitioners and Technical occupational group include nurses, physical therapists, surgical technologists, etc. The increase in this group’s share of total employment can be tied to a couple of key factors, one being technological advances in both preventive healthcare and treatment of illnesses and diseases. South Dakota’s aging population is the other major factor, with this increasing component of the population not only meaning a greater qualitative demand for healthcare but also a greater complexity of services. Advancements discovered through research for the treatment of such illnesses as health disease, cancer and diabetes have led to employment increases in Healthcare Practitioner and Technical occupations which have outpaced growth in other types of occupations. Medical equipment advancements and healthcare policy changes have also contributed to this increase.
The Business and Financial Operations occupational group, which includes occupations like marketing specialists, insurance claims adjusters, accountants and financial analysts, has also seen an increase in their share of total employment. This group’s share increased from 4.2% to 5.3% for a 1.1 percentage point increase. Economic growth as well as increasingly complex tax and increased business regulations have contributed to this increase. Fluctuations in financial markets during the last decade have led to an increased focus on wealth management and risk management, and people have increasingly turned to experts in this field. Additionally, the increased availability of electronic information and tools for market research to better understand customer interest and demand for products and services has led to employment growth of marketing and other business operations specialist occupations.
Production occupations have also seen an increase in their percentage of total employment, from 6.8% to 7.7% (0.9 point) between 2010 and 2020. Production occupations are employed mainly in Manufacturing industries, ranging from assemblers and machine operators to welders and butchers. The increase in market share can be attributed to several factors, amongst them are increased product demand and greater output. In many cases, manufacturing’s productivity increased greatly over the decade, in part due to greater automation and implementation of other technologies which allowed for faster production and increased quantity.
One of the major occupational groups which has experienced a decline in its share of total employment over the last decade is Office and Administrative Support. It includes such occupations as secretaries, tellers and order clerks. This major group’s share of total employment has dropped from 17.2% in 2010 to 13.8% in 2020, for a total decline of 3.4 percentage points. Technology has replaced some of the functions which used to be performed by workers in this occupational group. Increased productivity and technology advancements allow one worker to provide office and clerical support for several managers. These technology advances have also led to mid-level professional workers being able to efficiently handle their own communications and prepare their own documents, lowering the need for the assistance of clerical and administrative support.
Sales and Related occupations include such occupations as retail sales clerks, wholesale sales representatives and insurance sales agents. This group’s share of total employment also dropped 1.0% over the decade, from 11.3% in 2010 to 10.3% in 2020. Increased consumer use of e-commerce as well as technological change are the main factors underlying the decline. Many companies closed brick and mortar stores in favor of online sales and direct marketing to consumers. Changes in the ability of consumers to make their own travel plans and the availability of computer applications to connect directly with companies are additional reasons for the drop in this group’s share of the labor market.
The Food Preparation and Serving Related occupational group’s share of total employment also declined one percentage point from 2010 to 2020, from 10.0% to 9.0%. Occupations in this major group include food servers, cooks, bartenders, etc. Declines in this major group can be attributed to factors such as increased consumer use of centralized delivery applications and restaurants adjusting to offer only carry-out or quick service meals. Jobs in many of the occupations in this group (some of which are lower-paying with less than desirable working conditions) have traditionally been filled by first-time labor force entrants. These individuals are now seeking other employment opportunities or not entering the workforce.
Although minimal, all other 16 major occupational groups also had shifts in their share of total employment between 2010 and 2020. The reasons are as varied and unique as the nature of the occupational groups, but technological advancements, automation and changing consumer demand are common themes.
Thanks to Participating Employers
We'd like to take this opportunity to thank all the South Dakota employers who voluntarily participate, when called upon, in the OEWS survey. Without them, this type of information (as well as employment and wage estimates for specific occupations) would simply not be available.