The US labor market is recovering faster than expected, as successful vaccination programs and stimulus dollars generate sweeping impacts throughout the nation. The $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, together with the full inoculation of 51 million Americans by the close of the first quarter (and at least partial inoculation of more than 50% of the adult population by April’s end), are instilling confidence in both consumers and businesses. The accelerated use of and reliance on digital technology during the pandemic are now being accompanied by long-term investment in a digitally enabled workforce to meet the needs of tomorrow.
Cognizant’s “Jobs of the Future Index (CJoF Index)” tracks demand for 50 digitally enabled jobs of the future identified by Cognizant’s Center for the Future of Work, capturing the quarterly fluctuations in postings for these jobs. In the first quarter of 2021, the growth of the CJoF Index outpaced that of the Burning Glass jobs index by nearly 10%. The CJoF increased 28.8% from the previous quarter (from an index figure of 1.22 to 1.57). The Burning Glass index posted a quarter-on-quarter increase of 18.9%, rising from 1.45 to 1.72. These are the greatest gains for either index in the past two years, signaling not only a strengthening labor market but also a larger shift from business survival to digital growth and expansion.
Note, however, that growth notwithstanding, digitally enabled job postings remain far below pre-pandemic levels. The CJoF Index posted a severe year-on-year decline of 22.2%, dropping from 2.02 in Q1 2020 (its highest value ever) to 1.57 in Q1 2021. Growth in digitally enabled positions, which broadly represent higher-wage earners and larger investments for employers, signals longer-term economic confidence — which has yet to be fully achieved.
In contrast, the demand for all jobs is on the verge of bouncing back; the Burning Glass index posted a negligible year-on-year decline of 2.8%. That’s because brick-and-mortar jobs have been more susceptible to business restrictions and lockdowns; they’re now seeing a rush of activity as the economy reopens.
A rising tide: Quarterly growth for all CJoF job families
In addition to total job openings, the CJoF Index monitors trends in eight job families: Algorithms, Automation and AI; Customer Experience; Environment; Fitness and Wellness; Healthcare; Legal and Financial Services; Transport; and Work Culture.
In the first quarter, all eight families registered quarter-on-quarter increases, with the most modest growth in Work Culture (14.5%) and Healthcare (18.5%). Over the quarter, Fitness and Wellness (137.8%) and Transport (38.0%) emerged as top-performing jobs families after experiencing the largest declines in Q4 2020.
Measured over the year, seven of eight families posted declines: Work Culture (-27.8%), Algorithms, Automation and AI (-24.3%), Transport (-16.9%), Customer Experience (-15.7%), Legal and Financial Services (-13.1%), Environmental (-2.8%), and Fitness and Wellness (-2.3%) all dropped. Healthcare (12.4%) was the only family in the CJoF Index to register year-on-year growth.
The Fitness and Wellnessfamily posted the sharpest quarterly increase in job postings (+137.8%) thanks to especially strong growth in digitally enabled Caregiver/Personal Care Aide (249.5%) and Home Health Aide (156.5%) postings. These two job categories have experienced much volatility during the pandemic, running countercyclical with expectations for the progression of the virus. During declines in the number of new COVID-19 cases in Q1 2021, patients underwent long-postponed elective and routine medical procedures, thereby increasing the demand for in-home care.
Also noteworthy was the Transport family, which realized the second-largest increase (38.0%), led by gains in job postings for Aerospace Engineer (47.6%) and Urban/Transportation Planner (42.1%). The most recent federal stimulus package provided a much-needed lifeline to the travel industry, which was hit hard by the pandemic.
Algorithms, Automation and AI,the largest family in the CJoF Index, realized a 28.3% gain over the quarter. Within this family, 15 of the 16 individual job indexes registered quarter-on-quarter growth. However, only five categories showed year-over-year expansion. Unsurprisingly, each of these also saw growth for the quarter in Q1 2021: Robotics Engineer (73.0%), Robotics Technician (50.2%), Chief Information Officer/Director of Information Technology (47.1%), Mechatronics Engineer (45.7%), and Data Scientist (+42.2%).
The pandemic dampened tech hiring despite the increased reliance on digital technologies to facilitate collaboration and interaction among remote workers. But experts predict that tech occupations will recover to their pre-pandemic strength in 2021 as organizations accelerate their adoption of cloud strategies and artificial intelligence (AI) solutions.
Quarterly ups and downs
In Q4 2020, the fastest-growing jobs in the CJoF Index were:
Caregiver/Personal Care Aide (+249.5%)
Home Health Aide (+156.5%)
Solar Engineer (+131.9%)
Sustainability Specialist (+126.1%)
Genetic Counselor (+123.3%)
Jobs that posted the largest declines for the quarter were:
Solar Installer (-22.4%)
Alternative Energy Manager (-20.8%)
Fashion Designer (-10.4%)
Surveillance Officer/Investigator (-4.6%)
Career Counselor (-2.1%)
Annual ups and downs
The fastest-growing jobs in the CJoF Index for the year ending with Q1 2021 were:
Solar Engineer (+263.3%)
Genetic Counselor (+123.3%)
Registered Nurse (+81.0%)
Solar Installer (+49.1%)
Sustainability Specialist (+39.0%)
Jobs that posted the largest declines during this period were:
Career Counselor (-57.2%)
Fashion Designer (-42.3%)
Health Information Manager/Director (-35.4%)
Alternative Energy Manager (-34.5%)
We encourage you to review our overall index on a regular basis, as these COVID-19-driven shocks continue to alter the landscape of jobs of the future — and jobs of the now. Visit our Cognizant Jobs of the Future Index page to see the most up-to-date data and analysis.
This analysis was written by Robert H. Brown, a Vice President within Cognizant’s Center for the Future of Work.