Earlier this month the American Staffing Association (ASA) published its assessment of the most in-demand, hard-to-fill jobs for 2021. Despite the record levels of job losses related to COVID-19 (in 2020 job postings fell 32% from 2019), there is a significant shortage of workers in key areas.

To determine the most economically vital jobs for 2021, ASA used the following criteria:

  • Strong growth in demand in 2019 and 2020
  • Greatest number of job postings
  • Job pays a minimum annual salary of $50,000, offering family-sustaining wages.

Seven job categories were identified:

  1. Logistics
  2. Healthcare
  3. Tech
  4. Core Business Functions
  5. Education
  6. Skilled Trades
  7. Public Safety

Logistics

Demand for workers in the manufacturing and logistics industries has risen along with the amount of business being conducted online. From 2019 to 2020 the logistics industry experienced 14.7 million unique job postings for truck drivers. Training for student truck drivers in 2020 saw an 869% increase in demand. Warehousing showed growth during COVID, with 46,000 more job postings in September than in February 2020. Wages for logistics jobs range from $40,000 – $80,000 depending on position and location. The Randstad US Salary Guide suggests that jobs for warehouse and logistics managers will receive some of the largest salary increases as businesses struggle to fulfill e-commerce orders. Salaries for warehouse managers, for example, need to increase 3.5% to as much as $43.21 an hour to remain competitive. Logistics managers will need a similar increase, to $45.95 per hour.

Healthcare

Despite the demand for healthcare workers to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, healthcare postings actually declined from 2019 to 2020 due to forced shutdowns of non-emergency medical services. In a recent study of 2,000 frontline nurses conducted by the University of Pennsylvania, 60% indicated that they plan to quit healthcare. In a similar study conducted by Merritt Hawkins, 20% of physicians also say they’re planning to leave their professions as a direct result of the well-being impacts caused by COVID-19. In 2021, a wide array of nursing positions, primarily for travel nurses, RNs, LPNs and critical care nurses are available. In addition, 52% of behavioral health organizations are experiencing increased demand for services requiring additional professionals. Surgical and medical technicians, pharmacists, respiratory therapists, dietitians, and medical directors are also in high demand.

Tech

The pre-pandemic shortage in high tech professionals has been exacerbated by COVID-19. The demand for data scientists increased in 2020 by more than 50%, with three job postings for every one job candidate. The growth in remote work also accelerated the demand for IT/security personnel, particularly cybersecurity experts. Recent studies indicate a global cybersecurity talent shortage of 4 million professionals. Another area of shortage is software development. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates that by 2026 the US will have a shortage of more than 1.2 million software engineers.

Core Business Functions

High demand roles for 2021 include business development directors, solutions architects, sales and account executives, marketplace managers, product managers and customer success managers. The demand for digital marketing managers has increased by 43%. Fifty eight percent (58%) of recruiters cite a lack of skilled HR professionals. In finance, there is a growing need for analysts, CFOs, tax pros, finance managers and financial planners. Randstad estimates that E-commerce business analysts and marketing media managers are likely to see a 0.5% bump, hitting annual salaries of up to $107,107 and $131,130, respectively.

Education

Primary, secondary, and higher education have suffered extreme disruption during COVID. Institutions have had to redefine teaching methods overnight, resulting in a demand for online curriculum specialists. The emotional toll taken on students and faculty has resulted in more than 245,000 postings for speech pathologists, special education teachers, and certified behavioral experts – an increase of more than 175%. Universities are seeking 25,000 adjunct faculty to teach special subjects in a quicker timeframe and at lower costs.

Skilled Trades

Demand has increased in 2021 for key skilled jobs, including automotive techs, maintenance mechanics, plumbers, HVAC technicians, and production supervisors. The most significant growth in demand (43%) is for food service techs who offer food preparation, cleaning, and sanitizing for organizations such as nursing homes, hospitals, and restaurants. Production shift supervisors in manufacturing and distribution operations has experienced an increase in demand of 25%.

Public Safety

86% of US police departments are suffering a shortage of officers and job postings for officers has increased 81%.