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September 2, 2016

Jobs, Data Skills and Labor Day

The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ middling monthly employment report in advance of the U.S. Labor Day observance again reflects the impact of technology and globalization on the American workforce and the resulting demand dichotomy that places the greatest emphasis on low-paying service jobs at one end of the employment spectrum and relatively high-paying technical jobs like database administrators on the other.

The underwhelming job numbers for August released by the Labor Department on Friday (Sept. 2) were propped up by gains in the service sector, where 34,000 jobs were added last month in the sectors the bean counters label “food services and drinking places.” The sector has added 312,000 jobs so far this year, the government said.

As the recruitment specialist notes in a Labor Day survey, there are currently more than 1.2 million jobs available in the restaurant sector because “people are choosing to eat out more.”

One question for this sector is whether its customers, many who are time-constrained tech workers, are good tippers. If not, waiting tables and slinging hash won’t make ends meet.

The study also makes much of these lifestyle factors along with technology advancements and the profound impact of globalization. For example, the largest pool of available position in the U.S. job market study was nearly 2.7 million around-the-clock customer service representative positions. “Companies are serving customers in different time zones, meaning workers are needed at all hours,” the recruiter noted.

While software and application developers top the list of technology jobs, the CareerBuilder survey identifies more than 120,000 positions available for “database administrators” as analytics “technology is enabling companies to corral and interpret big data to make better business decisions.” According to the job placement study, 9,794 data science jobs were added over the past four years, representing a relatively healthy 9 percent annual rate of growth.

Indeed, as we have reported, there is a growing data science skills gap that large tech companies such as IBM (NYSE: IBM) and Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) are addressing by funding graduate programs in data science. Meanwhile, vendors are pushing “self-service” analytics tools that would allow more workers to get answers—so long as they ask the right questions.

One key to finding candidates capable of formulating the right questions when querying databases is job training and retraining workers in the manufacturing sector who have lost jobs to globalization. Yesterday’s metal bender, for example, now needs to understand how to use statistical process control techniques.

Developing these skills will require investment in training as well as how workplaces are structured. As Jason Furman, chairman of the president’s Council of Economic Advisers, told the New York Times this week: “For women, we do very little to subsidize child care or make workplaces flexible” and “when it comes to men, we spend very little money to train people for jobs or find jobs.”

Recent items:

Tracking the Data Science Talent Gap

Grad Schools Move to Fill Data Skills Gap