What’s the job of the future?
Coder? Robotics engineer? Mars-shuttle pilot?
If you’re looking at the job field that’s expected to grow the most in Minnesota in the next 10 years, the answer is a bit more down to earth: personal health care aides. Minnesota is expected to add 23,000 personal health care aide jobs between 2016 and 2026, more than in any other specific job field, according to the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development.
That boom in employment is being driven by an aging population and changes in late-in-life care away from nursing home facilities and toward assisted living and remaining at home but with help.
If 23,000 new jobs in the next decade sound like a good thing, there’s a pretty important caveat to consider: The pay for personal care aides is very low, averaging just $12 per hour.
An aging population
Economists project an explosion in personal care and other health-related jobs in the coming years for one big reason: aging baby boomers.
The generation of Americans born post-World War II is a big one. Today, the oldest baby boomers are in their mid-70s, while the youngest are in their mid-50s. And as more of these Minnesotans start reaching retirement age they are expected to require more medical services.
In the future, Minnesota’s population will be, on the whole, older. It’s already starting: For the first time ever in 2020, Minnesota is expected to have more adults over the age of 65 than children in ages 5 through 17. By 2030, the share of adults over age 65 in Minnesota is expected to reach 21 percent, up from 16 percent in 2016.
As a result of these population shifts, health care is expected to add lots of jobs in the coming decade.
And the biggest portion of those added jobs are expected be personal care aides. These are people who make a living by helping those who are aging or need accessibility accommodations with the tasks of daily living. That might include bathing, helping with cleaning, cooking, organizing appointments and helping clients with mobility.
Becoming a personal care aide does not require a high school diploma. Aides are required to pass a test and background check and enroll with the state.
A large share of people working in the industry in Minnesota — and the U.S. — are immigrants, and many personal care and home health agencies are immigrant-owned.
At a median pay of about $12 an hour, people working these jobs do not make enough money to be able to afford a two-bedroom apartment in Minnesota, or pay the mortgage on a median value home, according to analysis by the Minnesota Housing Partnership.
A booming industry
In 2016, Minnesota had an estimated 68,000 people employed as personal care aides. By 2026, it’s expected to have more than 91,000, adding more jobs than any other specific industry.
The growth in personal care aides is one part of more general growth in the senior living industry, said Lynn Blewett, a professor in the Division of Health Policy and Management at the University of Minnesota’s School of Public Health.
Life expectancy is up, which means more people are living longer with chronic conditions that require medical care. But because nursing homes are expensive, lots of people would rather age at home or live in senior communities that provide some services, but less than a full-scale nursing home.
In Minnesota, assisted living facilities aren’t licensed (though some regulations are currently being considered at the Legislature). Their numbers have exploded in recent years. Between 2006 and 2016, the number of jobs in senior living communities in Minnesota increased by 72 percent, according to a report by Argentum, a senior living association.
And as the number of senior living facilities expands, so does the number of people working in them.
Other growth areas
Aside from being the fastest-growing individual Minnesota job sector, personal care aides are in a broad category of jobs — personal care and service — expected to grow the fastest in the next decade.
This category includes everything from restaurant servers to child care workers to concierges to manicurists and pedicurists.
As for the other industries where Minnesota’s expected to add the most jobs?
Jobs in health care make up six of the top 10. Food and beverage service workers, business operations specialists and construction trades workers are also projected to show strong growth.