Jul 22, 2021 - Economy

Jobs of the future are catching up to jobs of the present

Annual change in Q2 2021 Cognizant’s Jobs of the Future Index
Data: Cognizant; Chart: Will Chase/Axios

Postings for digitally enabled jobs of the future are recovering from a sharp dip during the pandemic, but they still lag behind postings for conventional jobs as companies desperately try to rebuild their workforces.

The big picture: The pandemic hit the labor pool hard across the board, but jobs previously poised to grow in the future lost even more ground as companies retrenched.

  • The fact that future-oriented jobs are finally recovering — if slower than jobs overall — is a healthy sign that the economy may be ready to look beyond the pandemic.

Driving the news: Axios received an early look at the second-quarter numbers from Cognizant's Jobs of the Future Index, which tracks postings in 50 representative jobs classes for the digital and automated economy.

  • The index hit 1.78 in Q2 2021, up from 1.57 in Q1. That represents 467,324 total job postings in occupations ranging from alternative energy manager to fitness commitment counselor to robotics engineer.
  • Q2 saw an increase of 85,200 postings for jobs of the future, an increase of 13% over the previous quarter and 22.3% year on year from Q2 2020 — the period of time when pandemic-driven job loss was at its steepest.
  • Notably all eight of the family categories of jobs of the future — from environmental to work culture — experienced increases in Q2 for the first time since the pandemic began.

Yes, but: The Jobs of the Future Index still lagged significantly behind the All Burning Glass Jobs Index, which tracks the full picture of job openings of all kinds.

  • There was an all-time high of 12.2 million postings in Q2 2021, well above the pre-pandemic peak of 10.6 million postings in Q1 2020.
  • That represented a 56.8% increase year on year.

What they're saying: "The jobs of the future is still tracking underneath all jobs because there has been so much churn in the broader economy," says Robert Brown, vice president in Cognizant's Center for the Future of Work.

  • "But now that pendulum is beginning to swing back into place."

Details: The legal and financial services and environmental categories saw the sharpest increase in Q2, a sign according to Brown that companies are "ready to get their affairs in order" as they come out of the pandemic, and that firms involved in alternative energy and climate resilience are preparing to take advantage of a greener White House.

  • The occupations experiencing the biggest year-over-year increases in postings were physicians — little surprise given the continued need for health care and COVID-related burnout within the field — industrial-organizational psychologist and risk manager/analyst.
  • "That to me is indicative that as companies begin to bring people back to work, they're thinking, 'What do we need to risk and how do we handle hybrid work?'" says Brown.

What's next: Brown argues that companies working in future-oriented sectors are setting their forward strategies now, and in the second half of the year, "jobs of the future will really start to come into focus."

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