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Many job seekers can rest assured about this year's national employment picture following its impressive 2014 turnaround. Some of the numbers are nicer than others, but certain job sectors in particular offer good prospects for qualified candidates. Let's take a closer look at this tightening of the labor market -- and what it might mean for America's unemployed.
Unemployment Percentage: Depends on Whom You Ask
Unemployment numbers continue to improve, but whether they're at a satisfactory level depends on what yardstick you're using. According to the U.S. government, this year's continued drop toward the 5 percent mark indicates that the nation's unemployment rate is nearing the expected norm. But their numbers don't account for the underemployed, or those who gave up the search and stopped filing for unemployment benefits, which would bring the number closer to 10 percent. Even so, state unemployment benefits claims have run below the 300,000 mark for going on half a year now, a strong signal that the labor market is firming up nicely.
Race and ethnicity continue to impact unemployment rates for different segments of the population. The white population showed a 4.6 unemployment rate, with the Latino population registering 6.8 percent and the black population struggling with a 9.1 percent rate. The relatively good news is that all three groups are tracking consistently with the overall drop in unemployment nationwide.
Wages: Steady As She Goes
Wages continue to be something of a soft spot amidst general indications of a tightening labor market, hinting that employers aren't exactly desperate when it comes to attracting talent. For instance, private industry wage/salaries went up an average of 2.2 percent (as opposed to 1.9 percent in 2014). But these averages don't reflect the success of some of the hotter job sectors.
Job Sectors Experiencing Strong Growth
So with the labor market giving every indication of continuing to tighten throughout 2015, which job sectors represent the surest bets for today's job seekers? One of the most startling increases has appeared in the "data-driven jobs" segment. These jobs, which span multiple industries and involve data processing and computer work, are out-paying the average private-sector jobs by almost 70 percent, with an average of $40.30 per hour.
Another job sector enjoying evergreen growth is the health services sector. Registered nurses, for instance, are slated for a healthy 26 percent growth rate between 2010 and 2010, with 711,900 new positions added, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Home health and personal care positions are expected to skyrocket, with staggering growth rate of 69 percent and 70.5 percent respectively -- and these two job categories don't even require a high school diploma to enter.
Post-secondary education is yet another sector where qualified candidates can find plenty of work. Opportunities for instructors and professors should grow by 17.4 percent, with 305,700 new positions created between 2012 and 2020. The professional trucking industry also holds much promise for employment as the economy continues to mend. Positions in this field are expected to grow by 20.6 percent, providing 330,000 new jobs.
As you can see, the data looks promising, not only for these sterling job sectors but for the job market as a whole. Let's hope 2016 continues to bring glad tidings for those seeking employment in the U.S.