Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Workforce Trends and Personality Types (part 3 of 3)

My previous two blogs (here and here) have been about the workforce trends of the previous decade. But you may be wondering about the future. That is, as our economy crawls back from the hole of the last recession, what will be the job-growth patterns for different personality types and for different levels of skill? To answer this question, I analyzed Department of Labor data on projected employment levels and sorted the findings by Holland personality types and levels of earnings.

To see what I found, compare the following two graphs.The first one is last week's graph, for the years 2002-2012. (Click here to see a bigger version.)

Now, let's look at what the Department of Labor projects for the rest of the current decade. (Click here to see a bigger version.)

Start by comparing the red bars, past and future. These show the past and projected growth in the number of all workers in the occupations linked to each Holland type. It should be no surprise that the red bars in the second chart are higher in almost every category: The workforce as a whole grew by only 2 percent 2002-12, but it is projected to grow by 14 percent 2010-20. The most dramatic improvement is the turnaround of the Realistic occupations, from negative territory to 13 percent growth. But do keep in mind that 13 percent is still slightly behind the overall growth of the workforce. Similarly, the Enterprising and Conventional occupations score much bigger gains in the second chart (12 percent) than in the first chart (2 percent), but that 2 percent gain actually matched the overall growth of the workforce 2002-12, whereas their 12 percent growth in the second chart lags slightly behind the workforce as a whole for 2010-20. The one personality type that scores smaller gains in the second chart is Investigative: 18 percent 2010-20, compared to 20 percent 2002-12. But eighteen percent still outpaces the overall average for growth.

Next, look at the purple, green, blue, and yellow bars, which indicate the workplace growth at various levels of pay. Note the shape of each cluster of bars, and compare the two charts. One striking change between the first chart and the second chart is that the hollowed-out middles that characterized three of the personality types--Artistic, Social, and Conventional--are much less hollowed-out in the projections for 2010-20 than they were in the 2002-12 era. It seems that the middle-skill occupations that were so severely stunted by the recession are now growing at a rate closer to the rate of the higher- and lower-paid occupations.

Now, let's look at each personality type in isolation:

Realistic. In the second chart, the Realistic bars have a substantial bulge at the middle level--a great contrast to the first chart, where only the occupations at highest level of skill expanded at all. Although all levels show some gains, the expansion will be smallest at the low end, which means that Realistic workers will need more than basic skills to find work. The contrast between the performance of Realistic occupation in the two charts confirms the popular notion that the Great Recession was a "mancession," disproportionately impacting jobs held mostly by men.

Investigative. In the past decade, growth was pretty much commensurate with level of skill as indicated by earnings. That trend continues during the present decade, with bigger gains at the high end, although the upward slope is not as pronounced. This pattern reflects how important innovation is to the U.S. economy: There will be a lot of growth for those with high levels of investigative skills.

Artistic. The most dramatic change here is the great improvement at the very highest bracket. The reason for such a big difference is that two of the occupations at the high end are focused on construction and therefore took a particularly bad hit in the recession: Architects, Except Landscape and Naval--Holland code AI, median earnings $73,090, which shrank by nearly 5,000 jobs, or 6 percent, in the past decade, but is projected to gain almost 28,000 jobs, or 25 percent; and Landscape Architects--AIR, $64,180, which lost 1,700 jobs, or 10 percent, but is projected to gain 3,500 jobs, or 16 percent.

Social. As in the past decade, this group of occupations shows the most growth overall, reflecting the continuing importance of health care and education in our economy.

Enterprising. The previous decade was hard on this group of occupations, but projections are for better growth overall. Like the Realistic group, this group shows an interesting bulge, rather than a hollowing-out, in the middle. Some of the better performers there are Retail Salespersons (EC, $21,110, +706,800); First-Line Supervisors/Managers of Office and Administrative Support Workers (ECS, $49,330, +203,400); and First-Line Supervisors/Managers of Construction Trades and Extraction Workers (ERC, $59,700, +131,000).

Conventional. At the low end, the projected gains among Combined Food Preparation and Serving Workers, Including Fast Food (CRE, $18,260) are not as impressive as they were in the past decade, dropping from 47 percent to 15 percent. It seems the fast food industry is cooling off. But gains are also less impressive at the high end, where Accountants and Auditors (CEI) are projected to have gains of 16 percent (190,700 jobs), down from 27 percent (240,650 jobs); and Financial Analysts (CIE) shifted down from 50 percent (79,890 jobs) to 23 percent (54,200 jobs). My guess is that the recession focused the attention of business on how to wring every penny out of the cash flow, a less important concern during a recovery. The really dramatic difference is in the middle of the distribution, largely caused by the reversal of Executive Secretaries and Administrative Assistants (CE, $47,500), from a loss of almost 605,000 jobs (43 percent) to a gain of 156,000 jobs (13 percent).

In planning a career, it helps to consider both your personality type and the level of skill you are aspiring to--the latter roughly equivalent to the amount of education you plan on getting. Then consider the job growth expected for this combination, so you'll have an idea of the level of opportunity you can expect. This kind of planning may be more useful than looking at the outlook for any one occupation, because there is a good chance that you will change occupations somewhere down the line, but it's less likely that you will be working in an occupation associated with an entirely different personality type or that you will be working at a very different level of skill.


  1. It is important to watch out for these, and to adjust management to them. Minimize the negatives and encourage the positives. After all, a healthy workplace is a productive workplace. Which leads to a better, and more successful company.

    Barton @ ISA Registrar

  2. Superlative style of writing that every new blogger aspires to have.