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Expand chart
Data: Cognizant; Chart: Axios Visuals

While U.S. companies continue to vigorously seek new workers, growth in openings for some hard-core digitalized jobs — projected to be among the most prominent work in the future economy — have sharply slowed, according to a new report.

Quick take: The reported weakening in hiring may reflect the general U.S. economic slowdown. But, amid a 50-year low in joblessness, it also highlights the extraordinary volatility in the technology industry, the most reliably vibrant part of the U.S. economy.

What's happening:

  • Year-over-year growth in postings for occupations like data scientist, software engineer and computer scientist plunged to 9% last quarter, from 30% the first quarter, according to the latest Jobs of the Future index, produced by Cognizant and provided first to Axios.
  • The tech-heavy index, which Cognizant says attempts to track emerging jobs as the new economy unfolds, has been largely flat for two straight quarters (see chart above).
  • "A lot of companies have been on a hiring tear, but now they are seasonally constrained where they get their talent from," said Robert Brown, vice president at Cognizant's Center for the Future of Work.

The big picture:

  • The U.S. jobs boom has gone on for 105 consecutive months, including a surge of 224,000 jobs in June, keeping the unemployment rate at 3.7%, with wages up 3.1%, well above inflation.
  • But as we have reported, the U.S. and the rest of the developed world have been undergoing a massive economic and technological transformation, becoming more automated and digital in a trend forecast to continue for years and decades to come.
  • The conventional wisdom is that many current jobs will either be eliminated or utterly changed.

Though no one knows precisely what work the new economy will require and create, Cognizant describes its index, launched last year and published quarterly at Axios, as a serious effort to puzzle out the shape of the new world. The index consists of 50 jobs that Cognizant regards as pillars of the future economy, including several proxies that the firm named itself, such as cyber calamity forecaster and master of edge computing.

  • The fastest growing occupations last quarter were career counselor (+326%) and fashion designers (+124%).
  • The biggest declines were technology consultant (-39%) and genetic counselor (-22%).

What's next: What no one disputes is that most people are going to have to undergo fundamental reskilling, either very soon or eventually, in order to keep up with the massive changes under way.

  • Joe Brusuelas, chief economist at RSM, tells Axios that companies are rapidly forming in-house reskilling programs and that, in addition, "there is a whole cottage industry coming up to reskill workers."
  • These reskilling programs have become a recruiting tool of their own: they are a way for a company to say, yes we are hiring for cooks, warehouse workers and clerks, but really we are a way-station for a tech job of the future that you can train for with us.
  • Hence, you have McDonald's saying it is spending $150 million in offers for college scholarships for employees and their families; Amazon spending $100 million to upskill employees into tech jobs; and Booz Allen is training about 1,000 of current employees in data analytics and visualization.

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The latest: "The Secretary was referring only to what he personally had seen. As he made clear, any such information would be provided to others in the administration, not directly to the secretary of State," a senior State Department official told Axios.