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

Monday, February 24, 2014

Post-Recession Gains and Losses by Women



The Great Recession that ended the previous decade is sometimes referred to as the “Mancession” because it inflicted such a severe impact on male employment. This recession was brought on by a collapse of the housing market, and that in turn led to a severe reduction in worker demand within the heavily male construction industry. Making matters worse, the recession accelerated the job-diminishing effects of automation and offshoring in manufacturing, another heavily male domain. Service jobs, where women dominate, suffered less from this recession.

As the economy has slowly recovered from the recession, male and female gains have been uneven. How you compare them depends partly on how you define employment. Although the unemployment rate for women is now lower than the rate for men, the jobs women have regained in the recovery are more often lower-paying, part-time, and not self-employed.

I thought it would be interesting to look at a different measure than unemployment rate, earnings, or hours of work. Instead, I was curious about changes in the percentage of women in various occupations. Using figures from the Current Population Survey for 2007 and 2010, I created the following two tables. Because changes to very small occupations affect only a very small number of workers, I looked only at occupations that had workforces of more than 100,000 wage and salary workers in 2010.

The first table shows the 10 occupations that had the greatest gains, in percentage terms, between the 2007 percentage of female workers and the 2010 percentage.

Title
2007
2010
2010 Workforce
Gain
Highway Maintenance Workers
0.5%
2.3%
142,530
360%
Automotive Service Technicians and Mechanics
0.7%
1.8%
587,510
157%
Aircraft Mechanics and Service Technicians
2.1%
3.8%
117,510
81%
First-Line Supervisors/ Managers of Mechanics, Installers, and Repairers
5.4%
8.7%
415,900
61%
Network and Computer Systems Administrators
14.7%
22.3%
333,210
52%
Engineers, All Other
10.0%
13.8%
139,610
38%
Electricians
1.7%
2.2%
514,760
29%
Administrative Services Managers
32.7%
40.9%
240,320
25%
Computer, Automated Teller, and Office Machine Repairers
10.6%
13.0%
110,320
23%
Library Technicians
62.3%
76.4%
109,240
23%

All of these are occupations that either require a lot of hands-on work or work with high tech. (Library Technicians these days spend a lot of time with databases rather than shelving books.) The increase of women working as Aircraft Mechanics and Service Technicians may partly reflect the downsizing of the military as the Iraq and Afghanistan wars have wound down; women working in this occupation overwhelmingly come from a military background. Regarding Highway Maintenance Workers, my guess is that this occupation gained many workers because of funding from President Obama’s stimulus package.

The next table shows the 10 occupations that had the greatest declines in female participation in the workforces.

Title
2007
2010
2010 Workforce
Decline
Telecommuni-cations Line Installers and Repairers
7.5%
3.7%
156,350
-51%
Operating Engineers and Other Construction Equipment Operators
2.7%
1.5%
334,730
-44%
Civil Engineers
11.5%
7.1%
249,120
-38%
Fire Fighters
5.3%
3.4%
302,400
-36%
Sheet Metal Workers
3.7%
2.5%
131,600
-32%
Bus and Truck Mechanics and Diesel Engine Specialists
1.1%
0.8%
222,770
-27%
Construction Managers
8.1%
5.9%
191,430
-27%
Cost Estimators
15.4%
11.4%
183,790
-26%
Parts Salespersons
17.4%
13.2%
201,610
-24%
Parking Lot Attendants
15.4%
11.8%
124,590
-23%

All of these occupations have traditionally been dominated by male workers, and many of the occupations are in the heavily male construction and manufacturing industries. Because many of the women who have been working in these occupations were hired there only recently, their job losses reflect the tendency of distressed businesses to lay off workers with the least seniority.

As the recovery continues, it will be interesting to see how the male-female balances recalibrate. I hope to post an update as newer demographic statistics become available.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

What Skills Reward Improvement with the Highest Payoff?


I have sometimes looked at the monetary payoff for skills by running correlations between skills and earnings. This time, to use the most recent skill ratings (from O*NET release 18) and earnings estimates (for May 2012) available from the Department of Labor, I decided to use a different technique.

In the O*NET database, occupations are rated on 35 skills on a scale (representing level of mastery) that ranges from 0 to 7. (Actually, the highest rating of any occupation on any skill is 6.1.) I divided the occupation-skill combinations into five levels of skill:

Level
Rating
Example
1
less than 2
Barbers, rated 1.1 on Equipment Selection
2
2 or greater but less than 3
Librarians, rated 2.4 on Mathematics
3
3 or greater but less than 4
Veterinarians, rated 3.8 on Learning Strategies
4
4 or greater but less than 5
Hydrologists, rated 4.2 on Writing
5
5 or greater
Physicists, rated 5.6 on Active Learning

Then, within each skill level, I computed the weighted average earnings of all the occupations linked to each skill. To calculate a weighted average, I multiplied the workforce size of each occupation by its median earnings, summed these products, and divided this sum by the sum of all the workforces. This gave me an average dollar figure for each skill that gave greater weight to occupations with larger workforces.

Next, I calculated the difference between the earnings at levels 1 and 2, levels 2 and 3, and levels 3 and 4. (I did not look at the difference between levels 4 and 5 because only 17 of the 35 skills are rated that high for any occupation.) Finally, I computed the average of those three differences.

By using this approach, I achieved a measure of what difference in earnings is achievable by an increase in skill level. These are the skills that showed the largest differences:

Skill
Average Boost in Pay
Complex Problem Solving
 $26,930
Judgment and Decision Making
 $24,398
Active Learning
 $23,196
Time Management
 $23,159
Science
 $22,463
Negotiation
 $21,789
Coordination
 $21,367
Systems Analysis
 $21,329
Writing
 $20,929
Management of Personnel Resources
 $20,864

This approach is actually not that different from a correlation, because it attempts to show how an increase in one factor (skill level) is associated with an increase in another factor (pay). However, this approach has the advantage of showing you in dollar terms what it would mean to improve your mastery of a skill.

Of course, getting into a higher-paying occupation often is not simply a matter of improving skill. You may need some credential that reflects your higher level of skill: for example, a college degree, a certificate, or journeyworker status within a trade. But your achievement of this credential depends on your improving certain skills. And it makes sense to focus on the credentialing programs that boost the highest-payoff skills.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

The Impact of Recession on One Occupation

No two recessions are alike. One way they differ is the occupations that they affect. The collapse of the dot-com bubble had a serious impact on computer-related jobs but left construction comparatively unscathed. The reverse happened when the housing bubble collapsed. Although the entire economy suffered, the construction industry was particularly damaged.

It will take a few more years for housing demand to catch up with the overbuilding of the bubble years. It will also take awhile for many state and local budgets to recover enough tax revenue to be able to fund repairs and upgrades to infrastructure such as roads and bridges. But the ten-year outlook for construction is good.

One way to look at this is to consider the employment trends affecting construction managers.

The following maps show the percent changes in employment of construction managers. The first map shows the impact of the Great Recession, which was mostly negative: In 28 states, employment shrank. The biggest loser was Alabama, where employment shrank by 47 percent. Only 14 states and the District of Columbia had double-digit growth. The leader was the District of Columbia, with 69 percent growth; just behind was Wyoming, with 64 percent growth.
The second map shows where employment of construction managers has bounced back from recession--and where it continues to stagnate. On balance, the occupation grew during these two years of recovery. Employment continued to shrink in only 16 states, and 24 states had double-digit growth. The leader, West Virginia, saw growth of 126 percent. It's interesting to note that many of the states with the greatest rebounds are in the northern parts of the Central time zone; most of these were not greatly caught up in the housing bubble. The opposite is true of the Sunbelt states.
What about the future prospects of this occupation? The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects 16 percent growth from 2012 to 2022, which is faster than the average for all occupations. Here is the discussion from the Occupational Outlook Handbook (soon to be released by JIST Publishing in a new edition that I compiled):

"Construction managers will be needed as overall construction activity expands. Population and business growth will result in the construction of many new residences, office buildings, retail outlets, hospitals, schools, restaurants, and other structures over the coming decade. Also, the need to improve portions of the national infrastructure will spur employment growth as roads, bridges, and sewer pipe systems are upgraded or replaced.

"In addition, a growing emphasis on retrofitting buildings to make them more energy efficient should create jobs for general contractors, who are more likely to manage the renovation and upgrading of buildings than oversee new large-scale construction projects.

"To ensure that projects are completed on time and under budget, firms are increasingly focusing on hiring construction managers. Furthermore, construction processes and building technology are becoming more complex, requiring greater oversight and spurring demand for specialized management personnel. Sophisticated technology, worker safety, environmental protection, and new regulations setting standards for building and construction material also will drive employment growth.

"Job opportunities for qualified construction managers are expected to be good. Specifically, those with a bachelor’s degree in construction science, construction management, or civil engineering, coupled with construction experience, will have the best job prospects.

"Although employment growth will provide many new jobs, a substantial number of construction managers are expected to retire over the next decade, resulting in additional job openings.

"Employment of construction managers, like that of many other construction workers, is sensitive to fluctuations in the economy. On the one hand, workers in the construction industry may experience periods of unemployment when the overall level of construction falls. On the other hand, peak periods of building activity may produce abundant job opportunities for construction managers."