Workforce plan expects growth in health care, construction jobs; decline in manufacturing

Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry Secretary W. Jerry Oleksiak, pictured above, will work with Gov. Tom Wolf to create a pathway for robust employment in the commonwealth as the older generations age out of the workforce. PHOTO/DEPT. OF LABOR AND INDUSTRY

From now until Jan. 21, state officials are accepting comments for Gov. Tom Wolf’s federally mandated four-year workforce development plan, which seeks to coordinate the efforts of the state’s educational institutions, economic development programs and employers of the region’s major industries to create a pathway to optimal employment.

Anticipating a wave of retirements among 55-and-older workers in the next decade, the Department of Labor and Industry has set a goal of six in 10 Pennsylvanians holding a post-secondary degree by 2025.

“With an inevitable shortage of workers expected, Pennsylvania’s workforce strategies also must focus on the skills and abilities of individuals with barriers to employment, including individuals with disabilities, veterans, individuals transitioning into the community from the criminal justice system, individuals receiving TANF and those who do not speak English well or at all, among other populations, to meet present workforce needs and future demand,” says the department’s plan, released earlier this month.

The department’s plan cites data that indicate Pennsylvania has a strong goods-producing economy, even as the commonwealth transitions to a service-providing economy. Despite goods-producing job gains in percentage terms in 2018 exceeding those from service-providing industries over the last year, the longer trend indicates Pennsylvania’s economy will continue to shift from goods-producing to service-providing. Service-providing jobs in December 2018 were up 45,300 from one year prior but grew by 6.6% over the last 10 years.

Based on 2018 job growth, Pennsylvania’s best performing service-providing sectors were real estate (4.4%), transportation, warehousing and utilities (3.9%) and health care and social assistance (3%). Over the last decade, the latter two grew by 24.4% and 19.1%, respectively.

From 2016-2026, Pennsylvania’s total employment is expected to increase by 342,000 or 5.5%. This projection is less than that of the U.S. at 7.4%.

State officials expect the greatest employment expansion from now until 2026 to be in the commonwealth’s education and health services (147,000 estimated new jobs) and professional and business service sectors (73,000 estimated new jobs). Health care practitioners, technicians and support workers are expected to increase at the fastest rate of 13.3% or 79,000 workers by 2026. Jobs in computers, engineering and science are supposed to add 9.2% or 29,000.

At the same time, construction is projected to see a “robust” growth rate in jobs, 12.6%, which can be seen across all construction segments—civil engineering, building construction and specialty trade.

Driven by the downsizing of publishing and telecommunications, information is expected to decrease by 6.7%. Manufacturing and government are expected to decrease as well by 6% and 0.7%, respectively. Office/administration and production are both projected to see declines in employment through 2026 of -1.9% each—decreasing by 18,220 and 7, 540, respectively.

The full 284-page plan can be accessed on the department’s website. Comments can be emailed to [email protected] or mailed to 651 Boas St., Room 514 in Harrisburg by Jan. 21, 2020.