Nursing tops long-term job growth projections in Minnesota and nationwide

If the movie “The Graduate” were remade today, the memorable one-word career advice would more likely be nursing than plastics.

Advice to recent Minnesota graduates and job-seekers: nursing, teaching, accounting and computer-related fields will be the biggest areas of job growth over the next decade, according to the newest long-term projections from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED).

Nursing will add the most jobs of any occupation over the next several years both in Minnesota and nationwide, with nearly 34,000 nurses projected to be hired in the state, representing 23.8 percent growth. Seventy percent of those nurses will be RNs and the remainder LPNs.  Nationwide, 585,000 RNs are expected to be added to employment rolls by 2018.

Source: US BLS

An aging population, expanded coverage under the recent national health care legislation and continued advances in medical science all continue to drive the growth of employment throughout the health care industry. But nurses in particular, will be in high demand for the foreseeable future.

Maureen Schriner, spokesperson for the Twin Cities Hospitals group, which recently settled its contract dispute with nurses, pointed out that 80 percent of nurses in the Twin Cities hospitals choose to work part time, which is a key element in driving demand for additional nurses, she said.

As a recent national study pointed out, Minnesota ranks second in the nation in terms of demand for workers with post-secondary education. Unlike the national jobs’ projection, where most of the 10 top-growth occupations only require on-the-job training, most of Minnesota’s top-growth occupations require education beyond high school. 

While the projections assume that trained employees will be found for the occupations in demand, it will be up to the state’s colleges and universities to anticipate demand.

Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MNSCU) takes long-term employment projections into account when evaluating program changes at its colleges around the state, according to spokesperson Melinda Voss. MNSCU has seen skyrocketing enrollment recently, caused in part by the recession and high unemployment. But recognizing that the work force dynamics and employer needs differ from region to region, Voss said that long-term occupation growth projections are only one source of data the school system uses for planning.

Every two years, the BLS comes up with projections for long-term changes in the workforce, by occupation, in response to projected growth in the economy. Last December, after crunching 543 equations to come up with a model that projects changes in the labor force by occupation, the BLS released its projections through 2018.

Two key assumptions are built into the national model:

• That the U.S. economy will return to the long-run trend growth path by 2018, therefore reaching full employment by then.

• That no other events or “shocks” will occur that would cause another recession.

The current projections indicate faster growth rates and more numerous openings than might have otherwise been expected in several industries, had employment not fallen in 2008, according to the BLS.

The bureau also looked at 2007 job growth projections, created before the start of the recession. Differences in job growth from a depressed base are most noticeable in construc­tion, manufacturing, and financial activities — sectors that lost the most jobs relative to their size, according to the BLS.

The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, which builds its own projections from the national BLS data, went beyond the typical biennial update, extending the state workforce projections from 2009 to 2019 to take the most recent economic conditions into account, according to DEED spokesperson Kirsten Morell.

Source: Minnesota DEED

Nationwide, farmers and ranchers are projected to lose the largest number of jobs through 2018, down 79,200 or 8.2 percent, followed by sewing machine operations (71,500, 33.7 percent), order clerks (64,200, 26.1 percent) and postal workers (54,500; 30.3 percent).

In Minnesota, the top job losses are projected to fall in manufacturing led by metal and plastic fabrication (down 3,700, or 8.3 percent), followed by materials handling workers (1,940; 2.9 percent) and shipping and receiving clerks (1,293; 9.7 percent).

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