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If there’s one constant you can expect
from the economy, it’s change.

The United States began as an agriculture-based economy, became a manufacturing juggernaut and, by the 1980s, completed its transformation into a post-industrial economy, where services, information and research reign supreme. Today, about 79 percent of the workforce is employed in services alone, up from 77 percent in 2008.

To stay relevant, workers need to get ahead of the curve. This means taking classes that train you in the latest skills, and updating your resume with your qualifications and most impressive accomplishments.

We’ve reviewed the latest research on job skills and employment sectors to see how the economy is changing as we enter the third decade of the 21st century. Here are a few key takeaways from our research:

  • Focus on accomplishments and skills that highlight the traits employers desire. Knowing that creativity is the most in-demand soft skill, for example, use your resume and cover letter to tell stories that showcase your creative abilities.
  • Get trained on the hard skills most in demand in today’s economy. For example, an IT professional may want to take a few courses in cloud computing, the most valued hard skill at this time.
  • Learn how to work with data. Most industries with the greatest job prospects involve, to some degree, using and analyzing data. If you can do this, you’ll be well-prepared for the future.

To enhance advancement opportunities, employees have consistently put continued learning at the top of their wish lists. Employers are starting to take note …

Since the Great Recession, companies
are spending more on training.

Companies spent $83 billion on training in 2019, up from $55.8 billion in 2012 but slightly down from a peak of $93.6 in 2017. Training Magazine

Recession Pie

Re-training is necessary as companies look for different skills in an ever-changing economy. Social skills, analytic thought and technical prowess are increasingly important to career success …

Since 1980, jobs requiring stronger social skills, such as communication and management ability, have increased by 83 percent, and jobs requiring high levels of analytical skills increased by 77 percent. In comparison, during that same time, jobs requiring physical labor have seen little change in numbers. (Pew Research Center)

Change Economy Mob

… and this trend is likely to continue for some time.

By 2030, workers will spend 60 percent more hours on jobs that require technology skills than they did in 2016.

Meanwhile, people will work 26 percent more hours on jobs that require social and emotional skills. In contrast, jobs that only require physical and manual labor skills will see 11 percent fewer hours. (International Labour Organization)


Workers rightly believe that continuous training is
important to their success …

The vast majority of workers (87 percent) see ongoing training as important to finding success in their careers. (Pew Research Center)

Ongoing Training Mob

… and they primarily place the responsibility for preparing and succeeding in the future economy on individuals (rather than companies or governments).

About seven out of ten people (72 percent) say “a lot” of responsibility falls on individuals to get the right skills and education. (Pew Research Center)

Skills Education Mob

Let’s take a closer look at which skills
will help you succeed in 2022.

Business leaders are almost evenly split on whether soft skills or hard skills will be most helpful.

Slightly more than half of leaders (57 percent) say soft skills are more important than hard skills. (LinkedIn)

Hard Soft Skills Mob

The most in-demand soft skills are:

  • Creativity
  • Persuasion
  • Collaboration
  • Adaptability
  • Time management

The most in-demand hard skills are:

  • Cloud computing
  • Artificial intelligence
  • Analytical reasoning
  • People management
  • UX design
  • Mobile application development
  • Video production
  • Sales leadership
  • Translation
  • Audio production

The job sectors that experienced the most growth between 1990 and 2015 require both hard and soft skills.

Skills Growth Mob

Only two sectors measured by the Pew Research Center saw negative growth.

  • Utilities -25%
  • Manufacturing -30%

Pew Research Center

While the economy is performing quite well, employers maintain there’s a talent shortage and a skills gap in the United States that makes it harder to fill important roles …

The skills gap costs U.S. companies more than $13 billion a month, or about $160 billion a year. (Centre for Economic Research)

An increasing number of employers (68 percent) say they have open positions for which they cannot find qualified candidates, a fact consistent across companies of all sizes. (CareerBuilder)

Skills Gaps Mob

… workers agree.

Nearly 80 percent of Americans say there’s a skills gap and more than a third of them (35 percent) say it affects them personally. (Udemy)

The skills gap creates a number of issues for employers.

Here’s how business owners say they’re most affected by the skills gap:

Employer Issues Mob


Let's take one sector in which there’s an alleged
talent shortage: data analysis.

Data skills are highly desired in today’s job market …

About six out of every ten businesses (63 percent) are actively looking for candidates who demonstrate their ability to use, work with and analyze data. (IBM Report)

Talent Shortage Mob

Job seekers who understand data and analytics will account for one-third of the job market by 2020, with a projected increase of 110,000 positions. (IBM Report)

… but good analysts are hard to find …

Data analyst roles are the hardest to fill in the entire market, typically staying open for 45 days. (IBM Report)

… and companies aren’t investing in training despite employees being eager to learn.

Fifty percent of companies don’t provide data literacy training to their own employees. (IBM Report)

Literacy Training Mob

Yet 78 percent of business decision-makers say they would be willing to invest more time and energy into improving their data skill-sets. (Qlik)

Time Energy Mob

The vast majority of the jobs with the greatest career opportunity in the United States deal with data in some way. Here are the top 25:

  • Tax manager
  • Communications manager
  • Salesforce developer
  • Accounting manager
  • Product designer
  • Data engineer
  • Strategy manager
  • Scrum master
  • HR manager
  • Dentist
  • Audit manager
  • Physician assistant
  • Data scientist
  • Product manager
  • Business development manager
  • Compliance manager
  • Java developer
  • Nursing manager
  • Marketing manager
  • Solutions architect
  • Product marketing manager
  • Mobile developer
  • QA manager
  • Develops engineer
  • Software development engineer

Glassdoor Economic Research

Over time, employers are dropping some requirements, such as holding a college degree, to find candidates.

A majority of employers (59 percent) say work/life experience is important in data literacy, while only 18 percent viewed a bachelor or master’s degree in science, let alone data science, as a primary consideration. (Qlik)

Droping Requirements Mob

In truth, the people most likely to advance their skills on their own are job seekers who already have an advantage.

Groups that say they’re most likely to continue their education:

  • College-educated 62%
  • City workers 53%
  • The employed 53%


At the same time, job seekers who are already employed are more likely to fib about their skillset.

Percent that would apply for jobs where they do not meet the skill requirements:

  • Employed 48%
  • Unemployed 34%



Among emerging sectors, the cannabis industry is
going strong …

As of December 2018, Glassdoor’s jobs database had 1,512 openings in the cannabis industry, a 76 percent increase over the same period the previous year. (Glassdoor Economic Research)

Cannabis1 Mob

The median salary for cannabis jobs was $58,511 per year, about 11 percent higher than the U.S. median salary. (Glassdoor Economic Research)

Cannabis2 Mob

The majority of cannabis job openings (53 percent) are for professional and technical workers. (Glassdoor Economic Research)

Cannabis3 Mob

… and hiring in solar energy has stalled.

In 2018, Glassdoor had 3,492 unique solar energy job openings, roughly the same number as January 2016. (Glassdoor Economic Research)

At $58,523 per year, solar energy jobs pay 12 percent more than the yearly U.S. median base pay.(Glassdoor Economic Research)

Solar Energy Mob

In the end, the top three sectors carrying job gains in
2019 are the usual suspects:

  • Healthcare & education 30%
  • Leisure & hospitality 25%
  • Professional & business services 19%

Glassdoor Economic Research

The stats above will help you make a game plan for finding a job in 2020. Read these articles in our 2020 employment stats series to learn more ways to stay ahead of the competition:

Don Sjoerdsma

Don Sjoerdsma

Career Advice Expert

Don is a freelance writer with more than five years' experience in digital media. His work has appeared in a variety of publications, including Oprah.com, Yahoo! and HuffPost. While at OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network, his creative use of archival content...

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