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Safe Occupations Are Growing

The U.S. workforce is changing in some obvious ways: Certain occupations are growing, while others are shrinking. The workforce is also changing in some less-obvious ways: Workers in occupations with strong growth over the past 35 years have lower rates of serious health problems and fewer collect Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). In the essay “Safe Occupations are Growing,” authors Amanda Michaud and David Wiczer explored the changing workforce and the growth of these “safe” occupations.

After examining U.S. Census data from 1980-2014, the authors found a few things:

  • Professional occupations have grown 40% faster than average and only 7.5% of workers in professional occupations receive SSDI.
  • Sales and clerical jobs offer lower wages, but also grew faster than average, and workers in these occupations reported low rates of health problems too.
  • Machine operators are in the slowest-growing occupation, which carries the highest risk. Nearly 20% of machine operators receive SSDI.

Ultimately, the authors discovered that not all-fast growing occupations offer higher wages, but almost all growing occupations are physically safer. Shrinking occupations (such as machine operation) generally have high health risks.