The Hottest Jobs of 2021

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In this year of the Great Reshuffle, Payscale looked at the jobs with the most profile growth in our salary survey among job seekers and ranked the top ten. Payscale shared the findings with additional data and insights available for download on the fastest growing jobs by wages and how compensation planning can help employers attract talent in a hyperactive job market.

The hot job market—characterized by shortages in talent and supplies, hiring managers struggling to fill roles, and worker resignations—has created exciting opportunities for new employees. But which industries are showing the most promise?

Payscale, the software company that offers employee salary surveys, has released its annual list of what it calls the “hottest” jobs, drawing on crowdsourced data from its millions of employee-created profiles. For this year’s list, the company reviewed 865,000 salary profiles of U.S. workers between October 2020 and October 2021.

The company broke down its characterization of the most-coveted roles by three rankings: “Profile growth for job seekers” (industries targeted by Payscale users who joined the platform specifically to look for a job), “overall profile growth” (industries that garnered the most interest around compensation across all Payscale’s job-seeker profiles), and “fastest wage growth.” Below are some of the top jobs of 2021 in each category:

Jobs with the highest interest by new job seekers:






Jobs with the highest interest by overall profiles:

  • Manager of customer success team
  • Team leader of sales, retail
  • Diversity manager
  • Sales advisor
  • Email marketing specialist

Jobs with the fastest wage growth according to Payscale survey respondents:

The top 10 hottest jobs are those with the most profile growth among people who say they are evaluating a job offer for a new position in Payscale’s online salary survey. Beauty consultants top the list, with an astonishing profile growth of 79 percent. Are retailers struggling in particular to find people to sell makeup and skincare products… or are these jobs just among the most attractive of retail clerk positions, considering that retail sales associate also tops the list and that beauty consultants make — at the median — a few thousand dollars more?

Senior recruiters, recruiting coordinators, and compensation analysts also fall among the top 10 hottest jobs in 2021. The COVID-19 pandemic and the Great Reshuffle has been particularly challenging on human resources, beginning with layoffs that wiped out over 20 million jobs in April of 2020. That situation has now boomeranged into a hiring frenzy as job openings and separations have cycled into a boiling froth.

In this market, laborers have the upper hand. Workers want more from their employment experiences. They want to be paid more and to be paid equitably to other workers. This is making the compensation analyst in particular a critical team member in a manner that hasn’t really been seen before.

2021 Labor Market Trends
Employers everywhere agree: It’s harder to find workers right now. But what is fueling the difficulty of attracting and retaining talent in 2021?

Given that unemployment is still above 2019 levels (4.2 percent in November), the current labor market situation can’t technically be defined as a labor shortage. It’s also evidently not the extended unemployment benefits from COVID-19, as these ended in September and the perception of a labor shortage has not abated since then. However, unemployment is approaching rates pre-pandemic, so the job market is tightening.

Speculation as to why job openings remain unfulfilled include ongoing fears of contracting COVID-19, especially among essential workers who are more at risk of exposure, people leaving the workforce temporarily or permanently to pursue education, entrepreneurial endeavors, or passion projects, the early retirement of American workers over the age of 55, and the challenges associated with working while caring for school age children still at home.

Reasons for Unemployment
Payscale’s online salary survey asks participants if they have been unemployed. Of those that affirmed that they not been working recently, Payscale asks the reason for why they have been unemployed. Collectively, responses show that reasons for unemployment are varied and not driven by any specific factor.

The largest percentage of respondents (26 percent) said that they were let go or quit their previous position. Roughly another quarter of respondents cited education or additional training as the reason they took a break from the workforce. Around 12 percent of respondents say that they were caring for a child or another family member. Ten percent said they relocated and five percent said they were dealing with health issues which may or may not be COVID-19 related. Nearly another quarter of respondents (23 percent) cited some other reason.






Wage Growth vs. Inflation
A big contender for why labor is so hard to attract right now is that wages are simply not tempting enough in many cases to entice laborers to work positions that are low paid, risky, difficult, or unfulfilling — at least not in this hot of a job market.

This makes sense. The United States is an open economy where the spoils go to the most competitive. That includes talent. Basic economics stipulates that there is always a price point to attract labor and that when demand outstrips supply, labor has more power to bargain. However, organizations that are struggling may not want to raise wages to meet this price point, especially if the situation is temporary.

But do workers deserve more pay? Some statistics suggest that it’s long overdue, at least in certain sectors. Payscale Index has tracked wage growth since just before the Great Recession of 2006, monitoring both nominal wage increases (how much wages go up overall) as well as real wage growth (how much wages go up when controlled for inflation).

Nominal wage growth was tepid for over a decade following the last recession — and still is in certain industries and occupations, especially for low-income jobs influenced by the minimum wage. When controlled for inflation, wages have really suffered. The divide has gotten noticeably worse as inflation has spiked in the last six months due to shortages in the global supply chain from the economic impact of COVID-19.

Job Openings vs. Separations
It’s notable that job openings, hires, and separations have all increased in 2021 compared to 2019. In September, the number of quits increased to a series high of 4.4 million according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Is the increase in separations driven by low pay?

Payscale looked at the industries with the highest wage growth according to Payscale Index — accommodations and food services, leisure and hospitality, arts and entertainment, transportation, and retail — and found that the percentage of hires continues to exceed separations across all industries, meaning that separations are not happening at a greater rate than employers have been able to hire. Both have increased. Meanwhile, job openings have exploded.

Basically, what this indicates is that the challenges of attracting talent is due to organizations all competing with each other to fill the talent gaps they have from all the jobs lost in the previous year. In addition, they are trying to grow the talent they need to boost operations in a rebounding economy. This heightened demand creates an abundance of opportunity and fuels intense competition. In this market, candidates can be choosy about where they apply to work and can even skip around (take a job and then resign to take another job) to land the best opportunity, which propagates a state of continuous churn.

In other words, the heightened demand and lack of supply stimulates wage increases, but it is not driven by them.

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