Special Report

America's 25 Thriving Industries

5. Administration of veterans’ affairs
> Employment growth from 2005-2014:
106.2%
> Avg. annual employment growth: 8.4%
> Employment total: 52,538
> Avg. annual wage: $72,534

The Department of Veteran Affairs is one of the largest departments in the U.S. federal government. The administration of veterans’ affairs industry is also one of the fastest growing in the country. Industry employment has more than doubled since 2005 to its current level of 52,538 employees. In 2008, the United States had roughly 188,000 troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. In the years since, the war in Iraq has ended and the majority of those soldiers are home.

The Department of Veteran Affairs has come under scrutiny in recent years due to the backlog of veterans claiming disability benefits. However, perhaps due to recent growth in industry employment, currently less than 80,000 veterans have been waiting longer than four months for the department’s decision on their case. Two years ago, the backlog included more than 600,000 veterans.

4. Soybean farming
> Employment growth from 2005-2014:
111.7%
> Avg. annual employment growth: 8.7%
> Employment total: 4,520
> Avg. annual wage: $32,618

Global demand for soybeans, led primarily by China, has been on the rise since the mid 1990s, and the United States is one of the largest soybean exporters in the world. As a result, U.S. employment in soybean farming more than doubled, rising from 2,135 employees in 2005 to 4,520 in 2014. Many new farms have cropped up as well. The number of U.S. soybean farms grew from 408 in 2005 to 890 in 2014, a 118.1% increase. The total land area used for soybean harvesting in the Western Hemisphere surpassed the total land area used for wheat.

3. Dry pea and bean farming
> Employment growth from 2005-2014:
117.0%
> Avg. annual employment growth: 9.0%
> Employment total: 638
> Avg. annual wage: $33,155

Employment in dry pea and bean farming increased from 294 U.S. employees in 2005 to 638 in 2014. The 117% employment growth was the third fastest in the nation. Wages in the industry have increased alongside employment. The average annual income of soybean farmers grew from $20,465 in 2005 to $33,155 in 2014. The 62.0% wage increase was significantly larger than the 39.6% wage increase across the broader agriculture, forestry, fishing, and hunting sector.The United States exports just about one-fifth of its total dry pea and bean production.

2. Translation and interpretation services
> Employment growth from 2005-2014:
194.5%
> Avg. annual employment growth: 12.7%
> Employment total: 28,615
> Avg. annual wage: $46,924

One impediment to the pace of globalization is the multitude of languages spoken throughout the world. As technology has reduced the constraints of time and increased opportunities for international business, cross cultural communication has become increasingly important. In the context of a connected globe, the translation and interpretation services sector is the second fastest growing in the United States. From 2005 through 2014, industry employment shot up 194.5%.

The industry has expanded dramatically, but annual wages have remained relatively stagnant. While annual wages across the country have gone up by 31.1% since 2005, the average annual wage the translation and interpretation industry has gone up by only 6.2%.

1. Services for the elderly and disabled
> Employment growth from 2005-2014:
203.6%
> Avg. annual employment growth: 13.1%
> Employment total: 1,474,631
> Avg. annual wage: $16,431

Americans 65 and over currently comprise 14.5% of the total U.S. population, the largest share of senior citizens in recorded history. According to the Census Bureau, that share will increase in the coming decades. As the share of older Americans increases, so does the need for elderly care. Employment in services for the elderly and disabled more than tripled in the past decade, from 485,715 U.S. employees in 2005 to 1,474,631 in 2015 — by far the fastest growth rate of any industry.

Despite the rapid expansion in employment in the field, wages of industry employees, whose work consists of outpatient care for the elderly and disabled, has declined over the past decade. While annual wages in the health care and social assistance sector as a whole increased by 50.2% from 2005 through 2014, wages of workers in the elderly and disabled services industry declined — from $18,042 in 2005 to $16,431 in 2014, an 8.9% decrease.

Click here to see America’s dying industries.