June 29, 2015 -- Simple arithmetic tells us that data jobs are good. They pay well, have low unemployment rates, and are expanding across many industries. More complicated arithmetic projects a bright future of growth. Over the decade ending 2022, employment in data occupations—in which data analysis and processing are central to the work performed—is projected to grow 14.5 percent, faster than the 10.4 percent projected growth of ("for") non-data jobs. Research first published in The Importance of Data Occupations in the U.S. Economy highlights that these jobs not only are multiplying, but that they pay more than $40 an hour on average. Data workers also are very unlikely to be unemployed. This blog examines projected future growth in this field, courtesy of the Bureau of Labor Statistics' 2012-2022 employment projections.
The chart below shows the top 10 data occupations by projected growth rate. At the top, are physician assistants, with a projected growth of 38.4 percent. Information security analyst employment is expected to surge by 36.5 percent. This occupation is part of the expanding field of cybersecurity jobs. Other occupations in the top 10 include laboratory technicians, statisticians, and biomedical engineers; all projected to grow at a rate of over 25 percent. All but 7 data occupations are projected to expand their numbers by 2022.
The future demand for workers comes from the creation of new jobs as well as churn in the labor market from retirements and normal turnover. Because of that, it is useful to examine not just employment growth, but also projected numbers of job openings when analyzing future labor demand. The Bureau of Labor Statistics includes estimates of the total number of job openings that will be filled between 2012 and 2022; overall, 3.9 million data job openings are projected to be filled over this time period. The need to replace and add data workers does vary by occupation. The largest data occupations are expected to have the most jobs to fill, led by accountants and auditors with 544,200 openings to fill over the decade ending 2022. The need to fill openings is projected to be most acute (relative to the current number of jobs) for cost estimators. Over the decade ending 2022, companies are expected to hire 118,000 of these workers, equal to 60 percent of current positions. At the other end of the spectrum are data-entry clerks. This increasingly outdated data occupation is projected to shrink by about one-quarter, but nonetheless is projected to still have 26,000 openings to fill, equal to about one-tenth of the current workforce.
These numbers are impressive, but may well underestimate the future importance of data occupations to the American economy. As more occupations involve analyzing data or information, processing information, and interacting with computers (the activities used to define data jobs), these numbers will continue to rise. Just between 2003 and 2013, the number of data occupations more than quadrupled from 19 to 91; these additions include database administrators, cost estimators, and police, fire and ambulance dispatchers.
In sum, data occupations are not only growing at a pace that exceeds other professions, but they pay well and have relatively low unemployment rates. Happily, the future forecast is that this trend will continue.
David Langdon, Economist and Senior Policy Advisor and William Hawk, Economist
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