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Where the Job Machine Will Be Cranking

If the moribund job market has you down, just wait a little. From now to 2010, the number of jobs in the U.S. is expected to rise by 15% -- that's roughly 22 million -- to a total of 168 million, according to recent Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projections. The BLS report paints a picture of an economy that will continue to live up to its reputation as a generator of opportunity for Americans, especially in the technology and health-care fields.

"Barring any major wicked recession, there'll be a tremendous demand for people," says Harvey Bass, chief executive of Stascom Technologies, an executive search firm affiliated with Management Recruiters International that specializes in information-technology and medical placements. "The baby boomers will be retiring." Generation X-ers are a significantly smaller group than the boomers, Bass adds, which should lead to a serious shortage of talent as the number of jobs grows.

CEO TURNOVER? One exception may be high-level executives, whose ranks should rise 15% by 2010, to about 3.46 million from about 2.99 million in 2000, predict the BLS economists who wrote the report, Roger Moncarz and Azure Reaser of the Office of Occupational Statistics & Employment Projections. They note that "competition for these prestigious jobs should remain keen because of the ample number of qualified applicants and relatively low turnover."

Of course, CEO turnover could spike in the short term, depending on how many new corporate scandals erupt. Logically, though, given the latest accounting debacles, the number of jobs for accountants and auditors is expected to rise 19% over the next 10 years, to 1.16 million from 976,000 in 2000.

As might be expected, jobs for geeks will grow the most, the BLS projects. Software engineering jobs should leap 95% by 2010 -- to some 1.36 million from 697,000 in 2000, says the BLS. Computer support specialists and system administrator positions will rise 92%, to 1.4 million from 734,000 two years ago, according to the BLS.

TECH-ADEPT. How can that be, given the dot-com bust? One explanation could be a never-ending demand for people who know how to integrate new technologies into businesses and other organizations. Of course, another possibility is that the BLS could be wrong, as its projections have been at times in the past.

Whatever the profession, technology is likely to be a key component of jobs in the future, Bass says. "People are going to have to be fairly adept at technology," he adds. "The days of 'I don't know anything about a computer' are over."

Not all occupations are projected to expand. Jobs for farmers, ranchers, and agricultural managers will decline by about 22% because of farm consolidation, Moncarz and Reaser say. Automation, meanwhile, is expected to keep taking jobs away from humans in other fields, they add. Bank-teller jobs will drop by 12%, and meter-reader positions will fall 26%, according to their forecasts. Other positions where jobs will disappear include brokerage clerks, couriers, fishers, and repairers of home-entertainment electronics.

HELPING THE AGED. In other occupations, the percentage increase in job creation will be below the average for the overall economy, yet the number of new positions may be substantial. For example, secretary and administrative assistants jobs are expected to grow at a slower-than-average rate of 7%. Still, 265,000 of them are expected to be created by 2010, on top of the 4 million such positions that existed in 2000, the authors say.

Besides technology, the other top area for job creation will be health care -- positions such as occupational therapists, registered nurses, dental hygienists, and pharmacists. That's because an aging population will require a lot more care. Among the jobs with the best growth prospects in this field, personal and home-care positions are expected to soar 62%, to 672,000 from 414,000 in 2000, the BLS predicts. Growth in these fields will be fueled by technology advances that make it possible to shift some types of care from hospitals to homes, the study's authors say.

To project employment growth over the next decade, the BLS looked at many factors, including economic performance, advances in technology, and historical industry trends, Moncarz and Reaser say. The authors caution that no guarantee can be made for how accurate their projections will be. "Unforeseen events or changes in consumer behavior, technology, or the balance of trade could radically alter future employment for individual occupations," they write. Their projections, for example, were completed before the terrorist attacks of September 11.

REVOLVING DOORS. Here are projected increases for other select jobs: Financial analysts and personnel advisers (29%), funeral directors (2%), landscape architects (31%), biomedical engineers (31%), writers and editors (26%), social workers (30%), teachers (23%), lawyers (18%), psychologists (18%), physicians and surgeons (18%), pest-control workers (22%), correctional officers (32%), and hazardous-materials-removal workers (33%).

And don't knock film school. Jobs for actors, producers, and directors could rise 27%, the authors say. Here's one more thing to remember, the authors add. Jobs don't just come open when new positions are created. They become available, too, when existing workers move to other occupations or retire. The BLS projects that three of every five openings they expect from 2000 to 2010 will be for replacement workers.

If the BLS economists are right, once the economy recovers, the current generation of college students may enjoy the same level of prosperity their parents have. By Billy Cheng in New York

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