Occupational Trends

Figure 2-8 shows the growth in occupations from 2000 to 2015 and 2030.  These changes are affected by national trends. The substitution of capital for labor in manufacturing and distribution and the continued shift of U.S. manufacturing overseas will reduce the number of people employed in manufacturing. This means that the number of blue-collar jobs in the economy will be growing slowly, if at all.  The decline in blue-collar occupations may be less pronounced in Newport News than nationally, due to demand from shipbuilding and international manufacturing firms within the city. With the retirement of baby boom generation workers, there will be a continuing need to replenish the existing blue-collar labor force, but at higher skill and knowledge levels.

Figure 2-8 The fast growing occupations will be health technicians and aides, technical and information technology, managerial, and professional occupations.  In terms of the number of jobs created, service (including health workers), professional, and managerial occupations will lead.  There will also be strong job growth in administrative support, technical and information technology, and sales occupations.

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Figure 2-8 Occupational Distributions: 2000, 2015, and 2030 Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Virginia Employment Commission, Newport News Department of Development. *Technicians, Information Technology Workers and Health Technicians (Popup full image) 

Those shifts point to rising average incomes in the future. If the City is successful in attracting a significant office sector economic base, then the demand for managers, professionals, technicians and administrative support occupations should be stronger than the national average.  Newport News economy will depend on highly educated, highly mobile knowledge workers.  The importance of providing livable, interesting communities and diverse opportunities for entertainment and recreation in order to attract these workers cannot be overestimated.  It is widely thought that in the future, good jobs will gravitate to places where there are good workers.  Creating a hospitable community--which involves decisions affecting neighborhoods, transportation, education and community facilities--will become an increasingly greater part of the City’s economic development program.

Perspective is provided by two influential books: Robert Reich’s The Work of Nations (published in 1992) and Richard Florida’s The Rise of the Creative Class (along with his sequel, Cities and the Creative Class).  These books highlight the stratification of society’s occupational structure into globally competitive and globally marginal sectors.  Occupations that are globally in demand will generate wealth for those communities where they are located.  Communities with populations whose skills are surplus in the global market-place will decline. 

A key to attracting people who are globally competitive is to provide a quality of life and tolerant sense of community that is attractive to the most creative individuals of our society.  Newport News has started to shape and transform itself into a community that is attractive to this “creative class.”  Continuing to provide high-quality and relevant education and training at all levels is key to building a labor force that can fill occupations that are globally in demand. 

National demographic trends continue to forecast labor shortages; particularly as the baby boom generation starts to retire. Forecasts predict a mismatch between job requirements and skills, in science and technology.  Thus, resources must be provided for science, math, computer and technical education. Despite the relative decline in blue-collar occupations, there will be a shortage of both skilled and semi-skilled industrial workers and mechanics.  Remedying this will take more revenues being directed to vocational education and workforce preparedness.