Where I mix career information and career decision making in a test tube and see what happens

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Workforce Trends and Personality Types (part 2 of 3)

As our economy has changed, it has rewarded certain interests and skills more than others. Last week I measured one aspect of these differing rewards by looking at the workplace growth over the past decade for the six Holland personality types. It turned out that during this time period, which included a whopper of a recession, Investigative and Social types had the greatest growth (in percentage terms), the Artistic type grew modestly, the Enterprising and Conventional types merely kept pace with the overall growth of the workforce, and the Realistic type shrank substantially.

But these trends deserve a closer look.

The rates of growth that I calculated were based on all workers in occupations characterized by each personality type, and that approach concealed some important differences. It turns out that when you look at workers at different earning levels, there is often more variation within a personality type than there is between different types. And these differences say a lot about how job opportunities changed over the past decade.

Let's look at a new graph and see what it indicates. (Click here to see a bigger version.)

First, note the red bars. These are the percentage figures from last week, applying to all workers in the occupations linked to each Holland type.

The purple, green, blue, and yellow bars indicate the workplace growth at various levels of pay. You'll note that for four of the personality types, workforces shrank at some earning levels but increased at other earning levels. Let's look at each personality type.

Realistic. Although this workforce shrank overall (red bar), occupations at the highest level of pay (yellow bar) actually increased their workforces. Some of these highly-paid, growing occupations were Civil Engineers (Holland code RIC, earning $79,340, gaining 50,620 workers); Mechanical Engineers (RI, $80,580, +48,920); Electrical Power-Line Installers and Repairers (RIC, $63,250, +16,410); and Commercial Pilots (REI, $73,280, +15,420). The high level of pay that these occupations command--more than $60,000 per year--is an indication of the high level of skill that the occupations require. The take-away message is that this ten-year period was good for Realistic personality types who had a high level of skill but was much less kind to those with lower skills. It's also significant that Investigative is a secondary type for all four of the occupations that I mention here.

Investigative. You may notice that there is no purple bar for this personality type; that's because no Investigative occupation earns less than $20,000. For this personality type, growth was pretty much commensurate with level of skill as indicated by earnings. That means that Investigative personalities enjoyed the best of both worlds: earnings were high in occupations where job growth was greatest. Some of these highly-paid occupations with lots of job growth were Management Analysts (IEC, $78,600, +147,770); Industrial Engineers (IR , $78,860, +68,370); Pharmacists (ICS, $116,670, +62,170); and Medical Scientists, Except Epidemiologists (IAR, $76,980, +41,580).

Artistic. First, don't pay much attention to the spectacular purple bar that represents the under-$20,000 occupations. This actually represents only one occupation, Models, which was fast-growing but from a fairly small base (2,260 workers). The pay is so low partly because so many work part-time. More significant is what this personality type shares with Social and Conventional: a hollowed-out middle. The group of occupations in the $20,000-$40,000 range actually shrank slightly. The occupation most responsible for pulling down this group was Desktop Publishers, which lost about 18,000 workers, slightly more than half its workforce, largely because new technology enabled other workers to do desktop publishing for themselves. Another drag on this group was Photographers, losing 7,000 jobs, or 11 percent of its workforce. Again, technology was the cause; businesses that need photos can usually find what they want on websites that offer stock photos. It's interesting to note that the highest-paid group here grew only at the rate of the workforce as a whole: 2 percent. It included a mixture of winners such as Art Directors (AE, $80,880, 8,370) and losers such as Multi-Media Artists and Animators (AI, $61,370, -4,880). The latter occupation lost workers because of a mix of new technology and offshoring. The most growth was to be found in the $40,000-$60,000 group, where the outstanding occupations were Graphic Designers (AER, $44,150, +49,610); Interpreters and Translators (AS, $45,430, +31,720); and Music Directors and Composers (AE, $47,350, +15,960).

Social. This group of occupations is the perfect illustration of the holllowing-out of the workforce. The two income levels that gained the most workers were at the lowest and highest ends of the distribution. The big winners at the low end were Personal and Home Care Aides (SRC, $19,910, +534,190); and Waiters and Waitresses (SEC, $18,540, +245,900). At the high end, the standouts were Health Specialties Teachers, Postsecondary (SI, $81,140, +66,360); and Physical Therapists (SIR, $79,860, +61,170). A large number of college teaching occupations were also to be found among high-paid group. The take-away lesson for this personality type is that the growth has been in low-paying health-care jobs and in high-paying health-care and education jobs, and considerably less in the middle range.

Enterprising. This group of occupations experienced a unique growth pattern: the lower the income, the larger was the amount of job growth. This distribution therefore is the mirror image of the group of Investigative occupations. The greatest opportunities were at the low end--notably Hosts and Hostesses, Restaurant, Lounge, and Coffee Shop (ES, $18,580, +46,230); and Amusement and Recreation Attendants (ECR, $18,710, +31,300). The shrinkage of jobs at the high end resulted largely from Chief Executives (EC, $168,140, -196,460); and General and Operations Managers (ECS, $95,440, -98,890). The recession accounts for some of the job loss in the executive suite; the outlook for these occupations over the next decade is for modest growth, tempered by a high level of competition.

Conventional. This group is another good illustration of a hollowed-out workforce. At the low end, there was an impressive gain among Combined Food Preparation and Serving Workers, Including Fast Food (CRE, $18,260, +943,740). At the high end, the outstanding winners were Accountants and Auditors (CEI, $63,550, +240,650); Compliance Officers, Except Agriculture, Construction, Health and Safety, and Transportation (CEI, $62,020, +80,830); and Financial Analysts (CIE, $76,950, +79,890). Once again, note how Investigative is a secondary type for all three occupations that were winners.

The trends of the past 10 years say a lot about the effects of automation and offshoring in a period marked by recession. As you can see, it makes sense to use a combination of one's personality type and one's level of skill to explain past job growth. Next week, I'll look at job growth projected for the future and see the relationship to these two factors. As you'll see, it's a very mixed picture.

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