The events of the last decade — and, more recently, the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic — brought about a number of important changes within the U.S. labor market and the fastest-growing jobs and occupations. In addition to providing a major boost to the remote and hybrid work models, the last couple of years also acted as a catalyst for developments that had been building up for more than 10 years.
Specifically, the U.S. labor market was already undergoing an important expansion of its health sector in an effort to provide care for one of the largest cohorts of retirees. Accordingly, by 2021, the number of Americans working in healthcare-related jobs was roughly 20 million. Meanwhile, the green energy sector — which had been steadily growing throughout the course of the last decade — is now receiving more attention as an important source of new jobs for both blue- and white-collar workers.
So, to better understand the pace and extent of these changes, we used the latest data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to discover the fastest-growing jobs across the U.S. during the last decade. We also mapped the dominant industry for each of the 48 states in the contiguous United States, according to both percentage share and total number employees in a given occupation. Keep reading for more insights.
Arizona saw a 603% growth in ophthalmic medical technicians, translating into 1,930 new jobs added to the market since 2012.
Solar Jobs More Than Triple in 10 Years
With so much of today’s economy revolving around the energy sector, it’s only fitting that one of the fastest-growing jobs (by percentage share) during the course of the decade was that of photovoltaic installers. This trade experienced a massive 249% jump in the surveyed period.
For context, in 2010, solar power delivered roughly 1.2 million megawatt hours (MWH) to the U.S. energy market. Then, by 2020, output for this renewable energy source had grown to 91 million MWH. Naturally, this evolution is reflected in the numbers of professionals in this occupation, which grew from just 4,710 in 2012 to roughly 16,420 last year.
We see a similar picture in the case of the second-fastest-growing job: The number of wind turbine service technicians increased from 3,200 at the beginning of the surveyed period to 10,100 by the end for a 216% hike. Here again, the industry added the largest number of professionals during the pandemic, as employment in this field nearly doubled year-over-year.
Meanwhile, as documented in our previous studies, various professions in the healthcare sector have consistently been among the fastest-growing jobs in the U.S. That said, of the four occupations that made the top 10 in terms of their growth percentage, prosthodontists stood out with a 155% hike in the last 10 years.
Overall, increases in the ranks of ophthalmic medical technicians, nurse practitioners and hearing aid specialists ranged between 117% and 125%. That then translated into impressive employment numbers due to the shares that these occupations already had within the labor market. As an example, the number of nurse practitioners swelled more than two-fold during the last 10 years to 234,690 workers.
However, not all increases are created equal: Any new jobs added to the market for occupations that have only a few hundred or thousand employees across the entire nation can result in significant percentage swings in 10 years. For instance, while prosthodontists witnessed a 155% surge, that industry total only grew from 310 in 2012 to 790 in 2021.
Healthcare Jobs Record Highest Employment Increase Across 11 States; Michigan Leads List with 678% Spike
Below is a map showing which jobs — and industry they pertain to — grew the most in each state in the last decade. Hover over the states to see the fastest-growing job in each one.
When broken out by industry type at the state level, we can see that the fastest-growing occupations were within the healthcare, industrial and business sectors.
In particular, healthcare-related jobs topped the list in terms of percentage growth in the last 10 years in 11 states. The largest leap among these was in Michigan, where the ranks of ophthalmic medical technicians swelled by 678% since 2012. That translated into an additional 1,830 new jobs. Arizona was another state in which this profession grew significantly, albeit by a smaller margin (603%).
Similarly, Illinois boasted a 670% increase in the last decade to add an extra 2,210 marriage and family therapists to the state’s workforce. Meanwhile, manicurist and pedicurists jobs (which also fall under the broader category of healthcare occupations) topped the list across three states: Texas, Colorado and Wisconsin. In terms of total number of people employed in the profession, their ranks grew sixfold in Texas — from 1,150 to 6,610.