While the pandemic is not over, there are growing — and certainly inspiring — signs that things are slowly returning to normal.

For example, children in some countries who have been learning at home for several months are slated to return to the classroom in the fall of 2021 (that cheering you hear is from their parents!). In addition, many employees who have been working from home for more than a year are making their way back to the corporate office; if not full-time, than at least a few days a week or month. And in June 2021, the rock band Foo Fighters held the first full-capacity concert at New York City’s Madison Square Gardens in 460 days.

The Labor Market Is Changing

However, one thing that is not reverting to its pre-pandemic dynamic is the labor market. On the contrary, we are seeing an unprecedented shift in how we work, when we work, and especially where we work. Indeed, the “Great Resignation” is happening, and over the coming months, millions of workers are expected to hand in their notice — or simply stop showing up.

But where will they go? That pivotal question is addressed in a new report by Burning Glass Technologies, which is an analytics software company that provides real-time data on job growth, skills in demand, and labor market trends. Researchers at the company scoured through a database of more than one billion current and historical job postings in the U.S., along with the best available expert views, to anticipate what areas of the economy will generate the most important and in-demand jobs across the post-pandemic labor market.

Top 5 Areas

Here are the top five areas of the economy that are expected to shape the recovery — and where job seekers looking to get on the fast-track for growth and opportunities should target their applications (Note: All current employment numbers, projections, and salaries are based on U.S. data):

The Readiness Economy

  • Key Sectors: Biotechnology; Cybersecurity; Infrastructure; Public Health
  • Current Employment: 508,278
  • Projected Employment over the Next 5 Years: 1,497,187
  • Median Salary: $58,817 (USD)
  • Comments: Out of the five economic areas that researchers examined, the Readiness Economy has the richest opportunities for middle-skill workers. For some roles, specialized training may be required. However, many of these roles already have existing and internal talent supply chains that can be expanded to fill the need.

The Logistics Economy

  • Key Sectors: Industrial Big Data Analytics; IoT (specifically in Supply Chain); Logistics and Supply Chain Management; Manufacturing of Pharma; Manufacturing of PPE and Medical Equipment
  • Current Employment: 1,646,509
  • Projected Employment over the Next 5 Years: 5,977,689
  • Median Salary: $52,700 (USD)
  • Comments: The pandemic laid bare just how important supply chains are to the economy — and how quickly things grind to a halt when supply chains break down or fall apart. While technology is obviously a massive piece of the logistics puzzle, having enough trained people is also vital. Workers who are poised to experience the biggest benefits and gains are those with advanced skills in logistics, manufacturing, and IoT — particularly with respect to creating and supporting efficient, resilient supply chains.

The Green Economy

  • Key Sectors: Environmental Scientists, Engineers, and Technicians; Fuel Cell and Nuclear, Natural Resource Conservation; Pollution Removal, Waste Management, and Recycling; Renewable Energy
  • Current Employment: 250,724
  • Projected Employment over the Next 5 Years: 1,432,927
  • Median Salary: $52,639 (USD)
  • Comments: The researchers stated that the challenge for the green economy is primarily one of scale and speed. They also emphasized that the green economy held onto its growth potential during the pandemic, with increasing demand for trained and experienced alternative energy managers and engineering managers. Ambitious climate goals and incentives in many countries around the world are also expected to accelerate growth and generate opportunities.

The Remote Economy

  • Key Sectors: AR/VR; Cloud; e-Commerce; EdTech; Network Systems
  • Current Employment: 1,605,364
  • Projected Employment over the Next 5 Years: 3,670,823
  • Median Salary: $66,058 (USD)
  • Comments: Seemingly overnight, the pandemic turned remote work from an “employee perk” into a “must-have requirement.” Not surprisingly, opportunities in this area of the economy have increased dramatically over the last year and a half, and they’ll continue to surge in the months and years ahead. The researchers also noted that while many of these opportunities will be in technical fields, they will also extend to non-technical spaces such as sales, marketing, and customer service.

The Automated Economy

  • Key Sectors: AI and Robotics in Healthcare; AI in Finance & Investment; AI, Natural Language, Processing & Machine Learning; Computer Vision & Autonomous Driving; Robotics & Process Automation
  • Current Employment: 828,784
  • Projected Employment over the Next 5 Years: 2,073,809
  • Median Salary: $60,406 (USD)
  • Comments: Well before the pandemic, it was clear that AI, VR, and automation were going to profoundly reinvent the economy — and for that matter, society at-large. However, the researchers pointed out that, much like the impact in the remote economy, the pandemic has greatly accelerated opportunities in the automated economy. In fact, we are already seeing this transformation as some employers are turning to automation instead of hiring back (or fully hiring back) workers in lower-value jobs. These workers will need to upgrade their skills or be retrained, or else they run the risk of being on the outside looking in as the economy rebounds and blasts off. Stated the researchers: “Our report found that with reskilling, workers at risk of automation could expand their career options fivefold, with the opportunity to increase income by up to $15,000.”

Looking Ahead

After the volatility of the last 18 months, it is understandable that pundits and prognosticators are dialing back the intensity of their predictions — because there is the ever-present threat of yet another wave of COVID, along with potential future pandemics. However, it is a relatively safe bet that the five areas of the economy highlighted in the Burning Glass Technologies report will shape and drive the labor market in the months, years, and likely decades ahead. Welcome to the ‘new normal’ — if nothing else, it's going to be an adventure for job seekers and employers alike!