For workforce developers, knowing which occupations are most in demand is essential for developing programs that meet the needs of their local labor markets. Notably, a particular occupation growing nationally doesn’t necessarily mean it is growing in all geographical markets. In this article, we consider the projected occupational growth demand in Pennsylvania compared with growth demand in the nation.
To compare the two regions, we standardized the distribution of growth demand values for each and then converted them to percentiles. Now let’s compare the growth demand for Pennsylvania with that of the nation.
It turns out that the six occupations with the highest growth demand in Pennsylvania are also among the fastest growth occupations in the entire nation. Among these occupations, five are related in some way to healthcare: personal care aides, home health aides, registered nurses, medical assistants, and nursing assistants.
There are a few occupations, however, which display noticeable differences in how fast demand is growing in Pennsylvania compared to the nation. Several occupations—including sales representatives, receptionists and information clerks, and management analysts—show relatively higher growth in the nation than they do in Pennsylvania. On the other hand, a few occupations are relatively higher in Pennsylvania than they are in the nation as a whole: social and human service assistants; child, family, and school social workers; and physical therapists.
All 20 of the fastest growing occupations in Pennsylvania are over the 80th percentile of the fastest growing occupations in the nation. So the differences for these occupations between the two regions aren’t necessarily the largest. The greatest differences in demand growth between Pennsylvania and the nation are shown in the chart below.
Six of the top ten occupations with the largest relative growth demand differences are in healthcare-related fields. So although healthcare occupations are also projected to grow rapidly in the nation, at least a few in Pennsylvania have relatively higher expectations compared to the remaining set of regional occupations. Also noteworthy in this list of occupations is that the top three all fall within the social services space: mental health counselors; mental health and substance abuse social workers; and substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors.
There are many other avenues that can be explored in terms of the growth demand by occupation. As the labor markets examined get smaller and more specialized, we can expect to find even larger differences in expectations. This underscores the importance for workforce developers to drill down into regional-specific data rather than simply relying on national trends.
 For the purposes of this article, we looked at all 6-digit SOC occupations excluding 106 occupations that typically require no education for entry. Growth demand refers to the demand due to growth or contraction of total employment of an occupation.
 We converted each group of occupation growth demand values to z-scores, such that the mean is 0 and the standard deviation is 1. Then, we converted the z-scores to percentiles, such that 0 is 50%, 1 standard deviation is about 84%, 2 is about 98%, and 3 is about 100%--with the higher percentiles representing the higher demand relative to other occupations. The purpose of this conversion is to facilitate comparison of the nation and Pennsylvania.