Indeed Study: Only 15% of U.S. Workers in Opportunity Jobs

AUSTIN, Texas (July 26, 2016) — We often hear that the U.S. job market is strong and employer demand is at record levels. But we also know there is a deep strain of discontent among workers, with many feeling they’re stuck in neutral in terms of salary and career growth.

This is negative for the economy not only because workers are dissatisfied, but because fewer people have money in their pockets to spend. Businesses are increasingly aware of the persistence of this wage crisis, with the country’s largest bank, JPMorgan, recently raising wages in part to retain and attract talent.

To address this disconnect in the labor market, Indeed’s research team took a look at which roles in the U.S. have shown strong wage growth and competitive salaries from the most recent data. What we found is that only 15% of people held  “opportunity” jobs in 2015, about 16% in 2014, and that these positions are centralized in increasingly specific and high-skilled fields.

That’s the bad news. The good news is that these roles are in high demand by employers, making up 35% of all job postings on Indeed. If job seekers, employers, and policymakers can connect the dots, there is huge potential for more people to be in these high-growth, sustainable careers.

“Right now, the slice of pie is relatively thin in terms of opportunity jobs in the U.S.,” said Indeed Chief Economist Tara Sinclair. “But there’s potential for the pie itself to get bigger as demand is only growing for positions in fields such as technology, healthcare, and engineering.”

Jobs that topped the list for high-growth in the past ten years include roles such as registered nurse, software developer, and sales manager. Meanwhile, the five industries that house a whopping 92% of these jobs are healthcare, management, technology, business and finance, and engineering. These are areas where we see high employer demand versus supply, little chance of automation, and dynamic fields that will expand, not shrink, as technology changes the workforce.

Education is also key differentiator for these roles, with 75% of opportunity jobs needing a college degree, and the other 25% often needing a skill or certification. But while much of the onus is on workers, there is also an increasing need for employers and policymakers to offer training and incentives.

“Employer investment in training has been declining for decades, but it’s time to try and reverse the trend,” said Indeed SVP Paul D’Arcy. “Rather than wait for perfect candidates to arrive, employers and policymakers need to find innovative ways to cultivate talent, whether through courses, on the job training, or flexible work arrangements.”

Indeed’s study found that of 800 job occupations in the U.S., only 170 have shown wage growth of over 25% from 2004 to 2014 after adjusting for inflation, and income greater than $57,700, the purchasing power of the median household in pre-crisis 2000 (as adjusted for 2014 dollars). Only 16% of the workforce held these positions in  2014, according to the most recent data at the time of the study from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Indeed’s report released today, The State of Opportunity in 2016: Overcoming the Wage Crisis in Today’s Labor Market, identifies these opportunity jobs, the educational and skills requirements associated with them, the sectors in which they are most common, and the locations where they are concentrated. We also identify the reasons employers recruiting for these jobs find them so hard to fill, and we suggest solutions for the talent gap.

Read the full report at:

About the Hiring Lab

The Hiring Lab is Indeed’s proprietary research arm focused on examining emerging employment trends. The lab is headed by Tara Sinclair, Chief Economist at Indeed and Associate Professor of Economics and International Affairs at The George Washington University.

About Indeed

Indeed is the #1 global job search engine available in more than 50 countries and 28 languages. More than 180 million people each month search for jobs, post resumes, and research companies on Indeed, and Indeed is the #1 source of external hires for thousands of companies. Visit


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