IT Health Care To Drive Employment


    GRAND RAPIDS — Jobs in the metro area will have risen by 14.8 percent when 2012 rolls around, and many will be low-paying service jobs.

    The Bureau of Labor Market Information and Strategic Initiatives, a division of the state’s Department of Labor and Growth, reported employment should reach 602,000 in the region that year — up 77,400 jobs from 2002. About 20,300 job openings will be posted each year, with roughly 7,700 being new and the rest being replacements for existing positions.

    “If you look at the high growth, whether it’s numerical growth or it’s percent growth, a lot of these are going to be in the lower-level service jobs,” said Brian Waters, a labor market analyst with the bureau for Grand Rapids and West Central Michigan.

    But 16 of the 22 occupations listed in the bureau’s employment forecast are expected to add jobs at a higher rate than the market’s overall gain of 14.8 percent. Occupations that are not expected to meet the overall growth gain are food preparation and service, marketing and sales, farming and fishing, office administration, production and transportation.

    The occupation expecting the largest percentage gain is computer and mathematical, a relatively small group now but one that should expand by 32 percent. Software engineers, in both applications and systems, should grow by half — as should network, systems and data analysts. The sector is expected to add 2,400 jobs by 2012, when 9,900 are expected to be employed in the field.

    Despite that glowing projection, the field isn’t expected to gain as many jobs as first thought two years ago.

    “Even though computers are still prevalent, they’re not as much as was shown in the previous projection,” said Waters of the 2000-2010 forecast.

    Production, a longtime supplier of jobs for the region, is expected to add positions by 2012, but only about 7,000 or 8.5 percent worth. Because it’s such a broad category — one that includes butchers and meat cutters, for instance — the overall number can be deceiving and can cause someone to believe the entire manufacturing industry is collapsing. That isn’t the case across the board, though, as positions requiring advanced training are expected to grow.

    Machinists, rolling machine operators and setters, numerical tool programmers, aircraft assemblers, computer-controlled machine tool operators, metal and plastic model makers and pattern makers, and at least eight other occupations in the industry are expected to rise at a higher rate than the overall employment figure.

    “The manufacturing industry has some growth, but it’s still well below average. (The jobs) require more skill — some sort of advanced training beyond a high school education,” said Waters.

    “Manufacturing is showing a 7.7-percent increase. But that is half of the total of 15 percent. Within manufacturing, production occupations are probably not going to do too well. But other occupations, like engineers, are still going to be needed for manufacturing.”

    As for the health-care industry locally, the practitioners group is expected to grow by 20 percent and support occupations is expected to rise by 28 percent, both well above the average. Registered nurses should rise by 22 percent by 2012, while physician assistants should increase by 38 percent and information technicians by 39 percent.

    Job gains are also expected in post-secondary education, where teachers are projected to grow from 26 percent to 31 percent across a number of disciplines, including business.

    To compile the projections, the bureau takes industry forecasts for the state and puts these into a total employment concept to create a demographic composition of the labor force.

    “Using different models, we forecast what we think will happen over the forecast period. Once we have a good fit for the industry, then we use a matrix that computes the forecast into occupations, based on the Occupational Employment Statistics Survey,” said Conrad Lepecki, an economic analyst with the bureau in Lansing.

    “It’s basically a match of, in a given industry, what kind of occupations we have. We take this matrix and we match it with our industry forecast, and that gives us the occupational forecast,” he added.

    The bureau computes the occupational forecast every two years.     Where The Jobs Should Be

    This chart projects job growth for the metro area from 2002 to 2012 across 22 broad occupational categories. The categories are listed in order of percent increases by 2012.



    Occupation    2002  2012    Number   Percent
    Health Care Support10,67013,6502,98027.9
    Building Maintenance16,80020,6303,83022.8
    Health Care Practitioners21,03025,3204,29020.4
    Personal Care/Service8,95010,5901,64018.4
    Protective Service6,0707,0801,01016.7
    Social Services5,6406,53089015.7
    Food Prep/Serving39,25044,7905,54014.1
    Office Support87,86095,0707,2108.2


    Source: Bureau of Labor Market Information & Strategic Initiatives, Michigan Department of Labor & Growth, Occupational Employment Forecasts 2002-12, Grand Rapids Area.

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