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Job Outlook for Human Resources, Training, and Labor Relations Managers and Specialists

(February 17, 2010)
Employment is expected to grow much faster than the average for all human resources, training, and labor relations managers and specialists occupations. College graduates and those who have earned certification should have the best job opportunities.

Employment change. Overall employment is projected to grow by 22 percent between 2008 and 2018, much faster than the average for all occupations. Legislation and court rulings revising standards in various areas-occupational safety and health, equal employment opportunity, wages, healthcare, retirement plans, and family leave, among others-will increase demand for human resources, training, and labor relations experts. Rising healthcare costs and a growing number of healthcare coverage options should continue to spur demand for specialists to develop creative compensation and benefits packages that companies can offer prospective employees.

Employment of labor relations staff, including arbitrators and mediators, should grow as companies attempt to resolve potentially costly labor-management disputes out of court. Additional job growth may stem from increasing demand for specialists in international human resources management and human resources information systems.

Job growth could be limited by the widespread use of computerized human resources information systems that make workers more productive. Like other workers, employment of human resources, training, and labor relations managers and specialists, particularly in larger companies, may be adversely affected by corporate downsizing, restructuring, and mergers; however, as companies once again expand operations, additional workers may be needed to manage company growth.

Demand may be particularly strong for certain specialists. For example, employers are expected to devote greater resources to job-specific training programs in response to the increasing complexity of many jobs and technological advances that can leave employees with obsolete skills. Additionally, as highly trained and skilled baby boomers retire, there should be strong demand for training and development specialists to impart needed skills to their replacements. In addition, increasing efforts throughout industry to recruit and retain quality employees should create many jobs for employment, recruitment, and placement specialists.

Among industries, firms involved in management, consulting, and employment services should offer many job opportunities, as businesses increasingly contract out human resources functions or hire human resources specialists on a temporary basis to deal with increasing costs and complexity of training and development programs. Demand for specialists also should increase in outsourcing firms that develop and administer complex employee benefits and compensation packages for other organizations.

Job prospects. College graduates and those who have earned certification should have the best job opportunities, particularly graduates with a bachelor's degree in human resources, human resources administration, or industrial and labor relations. Those with a technical or business background or a well-rounded liberal arts education also should find opportunities. Demand for human resources, training, and labor relations managers and specialists depends on general economic conditions and the business cycle as well as staffing needs of the companies in which they work. A rapidly expanding business is likely to hire additional human resources workers-either as permanent employees or consultants-while businesses that have consolidated operations or merged with another company may require fewer of these workers. Also, as human resources management becomes increasingly important to the success of an organization, some small and medium-size businesses that do not have separate human resources departments may assign various human resources responsibilities to some employees in addition to their usual responsibilities; others may contract with consulting firms to establish formal procedures and train current employees to administer programs on a long-term basis.

In addition to new human resources management and specialist jobs created over the 2008-2018 projection period, many job openings will arise from the need to replace workers who transfer to other occupations, retire, or leave the labor force for other reasons.

Source: Bureau of Labor & Statistics, Chart available.

Colleen Gildea

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