In the Age of the Shrinking Middle Class, What Are Today’s Best Opportunities?

A new report from the Indeed Hiring Lab explores the wage crisis in depth, revealing the jobs that are escaping downward pressures.

The future isn’t what it used to be. Politicians and pundits fret anxiously about the plight of the shrinking middle class, while anti-establishment movements are surging in popularity around the world. Wages are stagnant or even declining, and what lies ahead is uncertain: For employers and job seekers alike, these are troubling times.

When economists survey this landscape they see an increasingly polarized labor market in which a handful of high-skill, highly paid people reap the benefits at the top, while many more people are obliged to settle for poorly paid low-skill work at the bottom. Between these two extremes, the jobs in the middle that used to provide a ladder upwards to prosperity are growing ever scarcer — with the result that many people today feel that the range of opportunity available to themselves, their families and their communities is dwindling.

The economy is changing — but new jobs and careers will emerge to provide new career opportunities. In the latest report from the Indeed Hiring Lab we analyze the state of opportunity in 2016, identifying the first seeds of this coming change. By diving deep into Indeed’s data and other global data sets we map out the pathways that are leading away from the global wage crisis and disappearing middle, showing job seekers and employers alike the who, what and where of the occupations that provide the best opportunities today, while giving us a glimpse of what lies ahead.

Here are just some of the things we cover in the report:

1. What are the characteristics of an opportunity job?

We identify the jobs in the US that have shown strong wage growth and competitive salaries in the past 10 years, and then analyze them by education requirements, job seeker interest, risk of automation, as well as how resistant they are to economic downturns. We also track these jobs in other major English-speaking labor markets to produce detailed and valuable insight into the occupations that are best defying the downward pressure on wages today.

Strikingly, these jobs are highly concentrated in a small number of occupation categories.”In fact, they accounted for only 16% of employment in 2014 while the figure dropped to 15% in 2015.” Many of them are to be found in the fields of healthcare and tech, but there are opportunities elsewhere for people with very different skillsets. So how does the rest of the labor market compare? We explore what this means for employers and job seekers in the report.

2. What skills and educational background do you need for an opportunity job?

Education is increasingly critical to job seekers hoping to avoid the trap of wage stagnation. In fact, 75% of jobs identified as offering the best wage opportunities require at least some form of higher education — which is especially striking when you consider that today only 30% of the US population has a college degree.

However, a college degree no longer guarantees access to a career filled with opportunities. Today, what you study is more important than ever and many formerly well-paid white collar roles are no longer the pathways to success they once were. Employers are increasingly looking for problem solving and emotional intelligence skills, making these roles difficult to fill. And what about people without degrees? We cover all this and more in the report.

3. Where can you find opportunity jobs?

We also take a close look at where today’s wage stagnation-defying jobs are located. Through analyzing the data on major English-language labor markets including the US, UK, Ireland, Canada and Australia we identify the countries and states with the highest concentration of opportunities—and also those with the lowest.

Meanwhile, opportunities are never equally dispersed within countries, suggesting that a willingness to move in pursuit of prosperity will become increasingly vital to career success — and this is a scenario which will also pose challenges to employers.

For more insights read the full report: The State of Opportunity: Overcoming the Wage Crisis in Today’s Labor Market

Read the full report from the Indeed Hiring Lab, The State of Opportunity