February 6, 2015
The landscape of the American workforce has changed throughout the decades – this, of course, is something that we all should already know. A rapid development of increasingly more advanced technology within a relatively short time-span has enabled us to push into new industries, and abandoning our enclaves of farming and manufacturing for newer sectors. And a recent analysis by NPR’s Planet Money supports this; using Census Bureau data, the economy-focused podcast mapped the most common job in every state between 1978 and 2014, and tracked the overall trends in the American work economy.
Looking at the information presented by Planet Money, we can see a gradual shift in the work economy from a country made up of manufacturers, farmers, secretaries, and truckers, to a nation of software developers, teachers, and truckers (still). Of course, we’ve already known for some time that American deindustrialization has played a significant negative impact on the country’s workforce; as a result of the United States’s new policies in late 2000 which granted permanent normal trade relations with China, our workforce saw a sudden decrease in manufacturing jobs. While manufacturing held strongholds in parts of the Midwest and the South, it is no longer a common job in any state. Globalization and its corresponding effect of outsourced, cheap manufacturing, has essentially ensured the America’s decline in manufacturing.
Technology, of course, has played a significant role in these changes in the work economy. Improvements to farming technology has led to a decline in the need for actual farmers; rather, we’ve transitioned to an economy that relies on farm managers to oversee the processes and the technology that do the actual farming. In 2002, we see a sudden dominance of computer analysts in five states – early signs of what would soon develop in the following years. The jump in computer analysts comes at a point during which the digital revolution pushed further into more advanced technologies; in the previous year, 2001, Microsoft had released Windows XP (which would continue to dominate the OS market until 2008) and Apple released Mac OS X.
Fast-forward to 2014, and we see software developers dominating four states, including Washington, Utah, Colorado, and Virginia. Indeed, when we compare these findings with a recently published survey on the top states for programming jobs, states like Washington, Colorado, and Virginia are among those that ranked. It’s also important to note that these four states also have rapidly growing startup ecosystems – from the likes of Seattle, Provo, and Denver, to Virginia’s Arlington and the overall interconnected DC-metro startup scene.
Most pointedly, the data from the Census Bureau shows that we will never have a dearth of truck drivers. Truck drivers, in this case, shouldn’t be interpreted in the traditional sense, but also encompasses delivery and tractor drivers. When considered in this way, then it’s no surprise that there will never be a lack of available jobs in this industry. This past holiday season, Amazon saw a sharp increase in Amazon Prime memberships – we wouldn’t have our toilet paper delivered to us within two days (or even within two hours) if our work economy suddenly saw a decrease in trucking and delivery services.
Check out the rest of the findings on the most common job in every state, from NPR’s Planet Money:
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