Employment composition by industry in the United States is constantly changing. Between the Great Recession, technological advances, changes in energy production, an aging population, and several major legislative changes, the past 10 years have been especially tumultuous. While some industries have dwindled nearly to the point of extinction, others have thrived.
Since 2005, employment increased by at least 50% in 29 industries. The 25 fastest growing industries employed roughly 1.7 million Americans in 2005. The same industries provided jobs for roughly 3.6 million Americans as of last year. To identify the thriving industries, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed employment growth from 2005 through last year for 597 U.S. industries.
In an interview with 24/7 Wall St., Martin Kohli, chief regional economist at the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), explained that the aging population was a major factor in the growth of many of the country’s thriving industries. As the population aged, “more and more people became eligible for Medicare,” Kohli said, a trend that is expected to continue. And older people need more medical attention. “The aging of the population is a big driver of health care spending, and health care spending is a big driver of job growth in health care.”
No industry grew faster than services for the elderly and disabled, where employment tripled, increasing by 203.6% from 2005 through 2014. The broader health care and social assistance sector is the largest in the country, employing nearly 19.8 million Americans.
The past decade was also a big one for energy. Oil production in the United States has nearly doubled since 2005 and is now near record highs. Increased production has lead to job growth in the industry. Five of the 25 fastest growing U.S. industries were directly related to oil production and shipment. Employment in the oil and gas pipeline construction industry alone shot up nearly 90% — from roughly 72,000 workers in 2005 to slightly more than 136,000 workers in 2014.
Several of the fastest growing industries in the country have been spurred, directly or indirectly, by domestic and international politics. Political organizations were one of the fastest growing industries in the past 10 years. This was perhaps a result of the 2010 U.S. Supreme Court ruling on Citizens United, a decision that effectively allowed for unlimited corporate campaign contributions and the creation of the super PACs. As a result, independent political spending soared from just under $40 million in the 2008 presidential campaign season to nearly $90 million leading up to the 2012 presidential election.
The administration of veteran’s affairs is another thriving industry. With tens of thousands of veterans returning home, the Department of Veteran Affairs has been inundated with claims requests. Partially as a result, the number of Americans working in the administration of veteran’s affairs has more than doubled, with a 106% rise since 2005, one of the largest employment growths of any industry.
Rapid employment growth in many of the country’s thriving industries was not easily predictable. “Based on demographics, you can make fairly confident predictions about certain things in the future,” Kohli said. Healthcare, for instance, is relatively predictable because need for services is often tied to age. “If you know how many people you have now, over different ages, you can be fairly confident that in 10 years you’re going to have so many people that are 10 years older.” However, predictions for other industries, including finance, construction, and technology, are not as clear cut.
Services for the elderly and disabled is the fastest growing industry in the country. It also employs 1.5 million Americans, a relatively large segment of the workforce. However, industries with rapid job growth do not necessarily employ large shares of the U.S. workforce. For instance, while employment in goat farming also grew at one of the fastest rates in the country, the industry employs only about 490 Americans, making it one of the smallest industries in the country.
To identify the nation’s thriving and dying industries, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed employment growth from 2005 through last year for 596 U.S. industries in the fourth level of detail in The North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) by the U.S. Census Bureau. All data, including the number of establishments within each industry, average weekly and annual wages, as well as breakouts of these data over government, private, and local levels were retrieved from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages (QCEW). We excluded industries defined as miscellaneous, catch-all, or in vague terms such as “all other.”
These are America’s thriving industries.