WASHINGTON – By many measures the job market is in its best shape since before the Great Recession. The unemployment rate is just 4.4 percent, its lowest level in a decade. Employers have added a solid average of 186,000 jobs a month over the past year.
It all reflects a remarkable recovery from the depths of the recession, during which employers slashed nearly 9 million jobs and the unemployment rate hit 10 percent — the first time it had reached double digits in a quarter-century.
Now, with the job market at or near full health, where is hiring particularly strong? Below are five industries with the fastest job growth over the past 12 months, according to the Labor Department:
Software and information technology workers: Up 4 percent, or 79,300 jobs.
As more business is conducted online, companies of all sizes and in practically every industry need website designers, app developers and data analysts. The rising demand for such workers has fueled an explosion in high-paying software and IT jobs. But you don't need a degree from Stanford or MIT to be hired. Many companies are hiring graduates of six-month coding boot camps.
Temp jobs: Up 3.9 percent, or 112,400 jobs
This is both good and bad news: Sharp increases in temp hiring can signal that companies are enjoying more customer demand and need more labor. If rising demand endures, the thinking goes, companies will eventually hire many permanent workers. The bad news, though, is that regardless of their customer demand, companies are increasingly turning to often-lower-paid temps, contractors and "gig" workers to keep their staffing levels flexible and control their labor costs. Temp work has soared since the recession officially ended in June 2009 and shows little sign of slowing.
Construction: Up 2.6 percent, or 173,000 jobs
With home building on the upswing and many Americans renovating their houses, construction workers are in sharp demand. This group includes plumbers, electricians and painters as well as people who pour concrete and build wooden frames.
Health care: Up 2.2 percent, or 337,000 jobs
This category has been among the most reliable sources of job growth since the recession ended in 2009. Many of the jobs in this industry — doctors, nurses and dentists — pay well. But not all do. One of the fastest areas of hiring has been for home health aides, who typically earn only around $11 an hour. Still, some health care workers can earn solid pay without advanced degrees: X-ray technicians, for example, can make $60,000 a year with a two-year degree.
Education: Up 2.2 percent, or 76,900 jobs
Another reliable job creator, the education industry includes everything from teachers, school administrators and principals to bus drivers and cafeteria workers. And it covers private schools and colleges, as well as tutoring services.