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Conrad

Finding hot jobs in a cool economy

by Karen Brune Mathis

by Karen Brune Mathis
Managing Editor

Unemployment rates in Jacksonville, the state and the nation are hovering at double-digits, leaving job seekers wondering where to find work.

In Duval County, the rate topped 10 percent in January. State statistics showed that almost 56,000 Duval residents were looking for jobs.

The state has some idea where to find them, at least through 2017.

“Future hot jobs in Florida,” a projection by the Agency for Workforce Innovation, lists 20 job titles with annual growth rates of at least 2.9 percent or higher, which would outpace the average 1.8 percent rate among all occupations. To qualify as a hot job, it also had to offer an entry-level average wage of at least $10.29 an hour, or $21,403 a year.

“Hot jobs” range from medical assistants with an annual average entry-level wage of $22,548 to pharmacists with a starting average of $88,513, according to the state. In between are other medical professionals, data analysts, engineers, and specific construction and residential-related jobs.

The chair of a Jacksonville workforce study four years ago said the jobs are appreciated. The study is available at www.jcci.org.

“I definitely believe these are good jobs for Jacksonville,” said Adrienne Conrad, a partner with the McGuire Woods law firm and chair of the “Attracting and Retaining Talent” study in 2006 by Jacksonville Community Council Inc.

The study concluded that Jacksonville lacked sufficient high-skill, high-wage jobs to attract and retain a highly skilled, highly educated workforce. It offered recommendations to change that.

Conrad said the state’s “hot jobs” are compatible with the study’s findings.

“Specifically, the study focused on the fact that service jobs are not going to get Jacksonville to the next level,” she said. “Knowledge-based jobs such as technology jobs and jobs in the health care profession will provide the type of salaries needed to attract a talented workforce.”

The average annual entry-level wage of the 20 hot jobs was almost $39,000, the same as the average wage the JCCI study found in Jacksonville for 2004.

“There are some jobs on the list that will not move us forward in terms of higher wages,” Conrad said.

“Any job is better than no job, but as we look beyond the current economic situation, we will want to concentrate on the knowledge-based jobs that are listed at the higher end of the wage spectrum.”

Conrad was surprised to see roofers, cement masons and security and fire alarm installers listed as “hot jobs,” considering the soft housing market.

“It may reflect that more people are staying in their homes and repairing and adding on to them,” she said.

The state said that its list extends to 2017 and assumes a Florida economic recovery, including in the construction industry.

Florida Hot Jobs

State projections for fastest-growing jobs through 2017

Job title State average entry salary
Network Systems and Data Communications Analysts $41,949
Computer Software Engineers, Applications $50,476
Medical Assistants $22,548
Dental Hygienists $46,655
Medical and Public Health Social Workers $32,662
Physician Assistants $54,650
Dental Assistants $26,795
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers $25,831
Cost Estimators $34,494
Roofers $24,581
Physical Therapists $53,990
Pharmacists $88,513
Paralegals and Legal Assistants $32,163
Cement Masons and Concrete Finishers $23,831
Industrial Engineers $42,763
Security and Fire Alarm Systems Installers $26,962
Vocational Education Teachers, Post secondary $30,203
Occupational Therapists $45,923
Mental Health Counselors $28,647
Computer Systems Analysts $46,004

Source: Florida Agency for Workforce Innovation

kmathis@baileypub.com

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