Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Employment Projections for Agriculture, Food, and Natural Resources, 2010-2020

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The Agriculture, Food, and Natural Resources career cluster is expected to add only a marginal number of new jobs over the next decade. Based on Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates, this cluster employed 4.6 million workers in 2010. The BLS projects the addition of about 250,000 new jobs by 2020, expecting that the cluster will grow more slowly than average at about 5%.

Cluster Overview:
Expectations for Change, 2010-2020

The Agriculture, Food, and Natural Resources cluster changed dramatically over the course of the 20th century and continues to change today. In the 1920s, about 25 percent of all American jobs were in agriculture alone (not including natural resources and other related occupations in this cluster). Today, only about one percent of American jobs are in agriculture, and still we are able to feed our population and export food to others. This has happened because much American agriculture is now a high-tech enterprise based on sophisticated research and the sophisticated application of technology.  This high tech industry is extremely productive, producing more and more each year with fewer and fewer workers. The production side of America's food and natural resources systems is becoming high tech just as agriculture has, and they too are generating more with fewer workers.

It is notable that most of the the slow growing or declining occupations in this cluster are concerned with the production of food and natural resources. "Gas Pumping Station Operators," "Farmers, Ranchers, and Agricultural Managers," and "Mine Shuttle Car Operators" are all expected to lose jobs by 2020. Employment will grow very slowly for "Logging Equipment Operators," "Agricultural Inspectors," and "Oil and Gas Roustabouts."

Agriculture-Related Occupations
The classification system used by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics groups all kinds of agricultural workers into a small number of broad occupations. This list, sent in by Andy Seibel, Virginia FFA Specialist at Virginia Tech, shows the diversity of jobs that people in this field actually do. In addition, it shows hundreds of occupations in other career clusters where workers benefit from agricultural knowledge and experience .
The fast growing Agriculture, Food, and Natural Resources occupations are not directly related to the production of agricultural, food, or natural resources products.  Instead, they are predominantly service occupations. For example, the four fastest growing occupations in this cluster are Veterinary Technologists and Technicians, Veterinarians, Non-farm Animal Caretakers, and Pest Control Workers.

This shift from material production occupations toward service occupations is happening across all 16 career clusters and across the entire American economy. It is primarily the result of improved technology, which requires fewer workers to produce more goods in every industry from agriculture to manufacturing. The BLS expects this trend to continue, and consequently, employment in the Agriculture, Food, and Natural Resources will steadily shift away from production and toward services.

The graphic below shows the 16 occupations in this cluster that are either growing faster or about average compared to the national growth rate of 14 percent. Note the dominance of service and the scarcity of production occupations in this top sixteen.

It is important to be aware that these projections are national. They give an informative picture of the way that the country as a whole is changing, but they don't account for the specific circumstances of Agriculture, Food, and Natural Resources employment in Virginia. For example, national agriculture is dominated by large midwestern agribusiness, which plays a much smaller role in our state. Virginia has a significant number of small agricultural enterprises and is home to a strong and growing local food movement. This may counterbalance somewhat the national trend of expanding technology and declining employment in the production side of agriculture. New employment projections for Virginia and its regions will be released later in 2012 and may shed some light on this.

Projections Data: What the BLS tells us about employment
Every two years the BLS releases new national employment projections for over 700 different occupations. The projections include five important pieces of information discussed in this post.
Estimated 2010 employment: The estimated number of jobs or positions in each occupation. (This is a count of positions, not workers; many people have two jobs).
Projected 2020 employment: The estimated number of jobs or positions in each occupation. (A count of positions, not workers; many people have two jobs).
Numeric Change 2010-2020 or "New Jobs:" Most occupations are expected grow by 2020 as employers  create new positions or "new jobs."
Percent Change 2010-2020: The percent increase or decrease in employment over the decade. This information helps us compare the rate of change across jobs of different sizes.
Job Openings 2010-2020: Job opportunities arise in two ways: when employers create new jobs and when workers retire or leave an occupation and need to be replaced by new hires. The BLS projects how many people will be retiring from each occupation over the decade and combines this with the number of new jobs to predict how many "job openings" will become available. Even shrinking occupations have job openings because employers  need to replace some of the people who retire with new workers.
Pathways Overview
The national system of career clusters divides Agriculture, Food, and Natural Resources into seven pathways:
  • Agribusiness Systems
  • Animal Systems
  • Environmental Service Systems
  • Food Products and Processing Systems
  • Natural Resources Systems
  • Plant Systems
  • Power, Structural, and Technical Systems
Many of the scientific and engineering occupations included in the STEM cluster are also closely related to Agriculture, Food, and Natural Resources, so I include discussion of them in this post.

The national career cluster system provides a crosswalk that matches the occupations analyzed by the BLS to career clusters and pathways. The BLS and career cluster systems were not designed to fit together, however, and as a result, we don't have all the information that would be ideal for analyzing career pathways.  For example, the Natural Resources pathway includes 33 different occupations but Agribusiness Systems only includes two occupations, and Power Structural and Technical Systems only includes one. 

All of the Agriculture, Food, and Natural Resources pathways except Plant Systems are expected to grow over the next decade. Plant Systems is expected to lose jobs because of the significant declines anticipated in its largest occupations, Farmers and Agricultural Workers.
  • Plant Systems is the largest pathway in 2010 with three times more jobs than any other pathway. Even though it is shrinking, it will be the largest pathway in 2020 as well. It contains two of the largest occupations in the cluster: Miscellaneous Agricultural Workers and Farmers, Ranchers, and Other Agricultural Managers.
  • Plant Systems is expected to offer the most job openings over the next decade. Even though the total number of positions in this cluster will decrease, it will still have many job openings because of the need to replace some of the workers who retire. Unlike growing pathways, however, Plant Systems will not need to replace all of the workers who retire.
  • Animal Systems is expected to be the fastest growing pathway because it includes two very fast growing occupations, Veterinarians and Veterinary Technicians and Assistants.
  • Related STEM occupations is a large group containing 13 different occupations, but most of these are small. The group is expected to grow by about 17 percent over the decade and add about 180,000 jobs
Pathways Employment Overview (in 1000s)
Pathways and Number of Occupations
Agribusiness Systems (2)
Animal Systems (7)
Environmental Service Systems (6)
Food Products and Processing Systems (10)
Natural Resources Systems (33)
Plant Systems (10)
Power, Structural, and Technical Systems (1)
Related STEM Occupations (13)

New Jobs and Job Openings
The Animal Systems pathway is expected to add the most new jobs over the decade, largely because of the rising demand for vets and vet techs. The BLS also expects that new jobs will be created in the in Environmental Service Systems pathway and in related STEM occupations, as the demand for work related to science and the environment continues to grow.

The BLS projects the "job openings" for each occupation that arise from the combination of new jobs and the need to replace workers who retire. In total, about 1.5 million job openings are expected in the Agriculture cluster between now and 2020. The occupations expected to have the most job openings nationwide are:
  • Farmers, Ranchers, and Other Agricultural Managers;
  • Miscellaneous Agricultural Workers;
  • Parts Salespersons;
  • Non-farm Animal Caretakers;
  • Meat, Poultry, and Fish Cutters and Trimmers.
There will continue to be job openings for Farmers and Agricultural Workers even though total employment in these occupations is falling, because many people who currently work in these fields will be retiring and making room for new workers.

The following graph shows the ten occupations expected to have the most job openings and the projected number of openings for each one.

Declining Occupations
Fourteen occupations in the Agriculture Cluster are expected to lose jobs over the next decade. Three of the five biggest losers are related to the pumping and servicing of petroleum and gas. The occupations expected to experience greater than 5% job loss are:
  • Petroleum Pump System Operators, Refinery Operators, and Gaugers (-14%);
  • Gas Compressor and Gas Pumping Station Operators (-10%);
  • Farmers, Ranchers and Other Agricultural Managers (-8%);
  • Animal Breeders (-7.5%);
  • Gas Plant Operators (-6.5%).

The tables below gives the complete picture of how occupations in Agriculture, Food, and Natural Resources and related STEM occupations are expected to change between 2010 and 2020 (in 1000s).

Employment Projections (in 1000s)
Employment 2010Employment 2020New JobsPercent ChangeJob Openings
Agribusiness Systems Pathway13.3140.705%3.3
Buyers and Purchasing Agents, Farm Products13.013.70.706%3.2
Farm Labor Contractors0.30.30.00-1%0.1
Animal Systems Pathway438.5566.2127.6029%217.2
Animal Scientists3.33.80.4013%1.8
Zoologists and Wildlife Biologists19.821.31.507%5.9
Veterinary Technologists and Technicians80.2121.941.7052%55.7
Veterinary Assistants and Laboratory Animal Caretakers73.283.610.4014%21.6
Nonfarm Animal Caretakers189.1241.552.5028%94.4
Animal Breeders11.510.7-0.90-8%3.6
Environmental Service Systems Pathway417.9490.272.4017%210.0
Environmental Science and Protection Technicians29.636.67.0024%19.5
Occupational Health and Safety Specialists58.763.75.009%25.7
Occupational Health and Safety Technicians10.612.01.4013%5.1
Pest Control Workers68.486.217.9026%48.5
Water Treatment Plant and System Operators110.7123.612.9012%41.5
Refuse and Recyclable Material Collectors139.9168.128.2020%69.7
Food Products and Processing Systems Pathway 659.8708.348.407%238.5
Food Scientists and Technologists13.915.01.108%6.8
First-Line Supervisors of Farming, Fishing, and Forestry Wokers47.046.3-0.70-2%13.6
Agricultural Inspectors19.319.60.302%6.0
Graders and Sorters, Agricultural Products48.248.80.601%12.2
Butchers and Meat Cutters126.8136.810.10846.8
Meat, Poultry, and Fish Cutters and Trimmers166.1192.025.8016%74.0
Slaughterers and Meat Packers89.196.57.408%33.3
Food and Tobacco Roasting, and Related Operators18.419.91.508%6.7
Food Batchmakers98.799.40.701%28.2
Food Cooking Machine Operators and Tenders32.334.01.605%10.9
Natural Resources Systems Pathway567.1593.226.005%199.9
Natural Sciences Managers49.353.13.808%33.5
Cartographers and Photogrammetrists13.816.93.1022%6.1
Geological and Petroleum Technicians14.416.52.1015%7.0
Forest and Conservation Technicians36.536.1-0.40-1%15.4
Fish and Game Wardens7.67.90.405%2.2
Fishers and Related Fishing Workers32.030.0-2.00-6%9.2
Forest and Conservation Workers13.713.90.101%3.5
Logging Equipment Operators35.136.41.304%9.8
Log Graders and Scalers3.84.30.5013%1.4
Logging Workers, All Other4.84.90.103%1.3
Derrick Operators, Oil and Gas18.920.71.809%5.7
Rotary Drill Operators, Oil and Gas22.524.11.607%6.4
Service Unit Operators, Oil, Gas, and Mining40.744.23.509%12.1
Explosives Workers, Ordnance Handling Experts, and Blasters6.86.80.000%1.4
Continuous Mining Machine Operators13.913.90.100%3.0
Mine Cutting and Channeling Machine Operators7.07.10.12%1.6
Mining Machine Operators, All Other3.43.40.0-1%0.7
Rock Splitters, Quarry3.54.00.412%1.2
Roof Bolters, Mining5.75.80.12%1.3
Roustabouts, Oil and Gas52.757.14.48%15.5
Helpers--Extraction Workers24.626.01.46%6.5
Extraction Workers, All Other7.57.3-0.2-3%1.6
Commercial Divers3.84.40.616%1.3
Patternmakers, Wood1.21.30.14%0.4
Sawing Machine Setters, Operators, and Tenders, Wood39.048.69.625%18.1
Gas Plant Operators13.712.8-0.9-7%4.5
Petroleum Pump System Operators, and Related44.238.0-6.2-14%14.4
Loading Machine Operators, Underground Mining3.93.8-0.1-2%1.2
Gas Compressor and Gas Pumping Station Operators4.54.1-0.5-10%1.3
Pump Operators, Except Wellhead Pumpers10.811.20.44%3.6
Wellhead Pumpers15.115.80.75%5.2
Mine Shuttle Car Operators3.12.9-0.2-6%0.9
Plant Systems Pathway2,323.82,262.1-61.6-3%581.5
Miscellaneous Agricultural Workers746.4727.3-19.1-3%227.4
Farmers, Ranchers, and Other Agricultural Managers1,202.51,106.4-96.1-8%234.5
Soil and Plant Scientists16.318.32.012%8.6
Farm and Home Management Advisors13.015.12.217%5.0
First-Line Supervisors of Landscaping and Related Workers202.9233.630.715%60.1
Pesticide Handlers, Sprayers, and Applicators, Vegetation29.532.53.010%8.2
Tree Trimmers and Pruners50.659.79.118%18.0
Grounds Maintenance Workers, All Other18.219.91.710%4.9
Farm Equipment Mechanics and Service Technicians32.937.34.413%12.9
Power Structural and Technical Systems Pathway203.9236.532.616%107.2
Parts Salespersons203.9236.532.616%107.2
Related STEM Occupations426.1496.670.50%183.6
Agricultural Engineers2.72.90.29%0.8
Environmental Engineers51.462.711.322%22.6
Mining and Geological Engineers, Including Mining Safety6.47.00.610%2.0
Petroleum Engineers30.235.35.117%11.8
Environmental Engineering Technicians18.823.34.524%8.2
Biochemists and Biophysicists25.132.97.831%13.4
Biological Scientists, All Other35.838.02.26%10.3
Conservation Scientists23.424.61.25%4.0
Environmental Scientists and Specialists, Including Health89.4106.116.719%43.2
Geoscientists, Except Hydrologists and Geographers33.840.97.121%17.1
Agricultural and Food Science Technicians21.322.81.57%8.7
Biological Technicians80.291.110.914%37.9