The days when many children chose their parents’ career path for their first job seem to be over.
For four generations, LinkedIn has looked at the most common career entry decisions by industry, reviewing more than nine million LinkedIn user profiles. The ups and downs of this analysis show the development of the US labor market.
Manufacturing, for example, attracted far more young professionals a few generations ago than it does today. Nine percent of the baby boomer generation found their first job in production. That number dropped to 7% for Gen X and 5% for Millennials.
Today the first jobs in the manufacturing industry attract only 4.4% of Generation Z. While civilian employment outside of agriculture has roughly doubled in the U.S. since 1970, relentless automation and offshoring have caused total manufacturing employment to shrink more than 20% from its Nixon-era highs.
In the meantime, the software and information technology service professions followed a more nuanced pattern. The percentage of first-time employees in this sector peaked at 8% for Generation X, which included many people who were just starting their careers as the dot-com craze 1995-2000. That percentage has shrunk recently and is only 4% for Gen Z.
Areas that have grown in popularity over the decades include leisure and travel, retail, consumer goods, nonprofits and entertainment, and wellness and fitness. Areas that have lost relative popularity include business services, finance, public administration, construction, real estate, and law.
Healthcare and education, meanwhile, are emerging as areas that never go out of style. Both have seen some variation between generations. However, regardless of the era, each of them has always remained one of the top four choices for a first job. And the reasons for the continued popularity of both areas are fascinating.
In health care, continuous technological advances – and the greater availability of health insurance – are expanding employment opportunities and the public’s ability to pay for more care. Professions that didn’t exist a few generations ago, such as sonographers and cardiovascular technicians, are mainstream today. The opportunities for nurses, home nurses, and other long-established professions are constantly increasing.
America’s thirst for education is also growing steadily. In 1964 only 12% of men and 7% of women had a four-year college degree. By 2019, the gender distribution had reversed and the total had risen to 38% for women and 37% for men. This results in many employment opportunities in higher education. In the K-12 sector, shrinking class size resulted in new teacher demands for much of the 20th century that far outpaced population growth.