Employment for HR Managers is Strong; ‘Labor Relations’ Jobs Will Decline
October 15, 2015
HR jobs

According to the latest information from the BLS, the employment of human resources managers should grow about 13 percent over the ten year period from 2012 to 2022.

The last jobs report was pretty disappointing. According to the latest Employment Situation Report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, confirm payroll increased by an anemic 142,000 in September. While it was far less than consensus estimates, it wasn’t low enough to change the unemployment rate, which is currently at 5.1 percent.

However, the figure belies another important statistic: The Labor Force Participation Rate is at a 37 year low. A record number of Americans have been excluded from the work force. Only about a third of the decline can be attributed to retiring baby boomers. The remainder include the ranks of the disabled (which swelled substantially in recent years as people fell off unemployment benefits but were unable to find full-time employment).

The number of long-term unemployed – those who have been out of work for 27 weeks or more, but who continue to look for work – remained steady at 2.1 million, or about one in four unemployed.

So what’s the outlook for human resources professionals? After all, it’s the HR workers who are on the front lines of the employment wars. HR workers get the first whiffs of changes in the employment picture for almost any industry except their own.

If you want to be on a management track, Human Resources is a great place to be. 

According to the latest information from the BLS, the employment of human resources managers should grow about 13 percent over the ten year period from 2012 to 2022. That’s almost double the rate of increase for management occupations as a whole, which the BLS expects to grow at 7 percent over the same period. It’s also slightly ahead of the expected job growth for all industries over that interval, which the BLS pegs at 7  percent.

If you’re in management, or you want to be in management in a growth field, you’re in a very good field. Of course, your prospects will also vary by industry. HR in coal production is not going to grow as fast as HR in health care, education, transportation, green energy, technology or other growth industries.

What are my colleagues in HR Management earning?

The latest wage survey from the BLS was in May of 2012. At that time, the median annual wage for HR managers was $99,720. The bottom 10 percent earned $59,020 or less at that time, and the top 10 percent earned $173,140 or more.

Broken out by major industry groups, the median annual wages look like this: 

Management of companies and enterprises $112,550
Professional, scientific, and technical services 112,210
Manufacturing 97,930
Government 92,020
Health care and social assistance 85,870

Just looking at the BLS’s numbers, we suspect there’s quite a spread between ‘health care’ HR professionals and social assistance HR professionals.

However, HR workers in government should consider the value of the total compensation package, not just the BLS wage figures. When you add in the value of health care packages and a traditional defined benefit pension – still offered regularly in government and increasingly rarely in private industry – the overall compensation package for government workers is frequently greater than for those who actually have to be productive. 

Ok, So much for the managers. What about us in the trenches?

For those of you who have not been anointed to the ranks of management, or who are just starting your careers, think carefully about whether you want to work as a human resource specialist or a labor relations specialist. While the two fields certainly have a lot of overlap, the difference in employment outlooks between the two fields is immense: The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that employment growth for HR specialists will be about 8 percent over the decade beginning in 2012. But the number of people employed in the labor relations field is actually projected to shrink over the same decade, by 1 percent. This is a significant contraction, considering it will shrink despite an expected increase in population and GDP. This is due to a massive decline in union membership and the relocation of a substantial fraction of American manufacturing overseas, as well as a coal and steel industry in decline.

As we mentioned above, the projected growth rate at the management level is 13 percent – well above the general growth rate. Those managers are going to have to come from somewhere – and that means a lot of you are going to have some upward mobility.

As for current wages, the average (median) wage for the HR specialist and labor specialist workers not in management was $26.75 per hour, or $55,640 per year. The bottom ten percent of the HR specialist profession makes $32,770 or less, while the top ten percent earn more than 95,380. Among those working as labor relations specialists, the median wage was slightly lower, at $54,660. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $17,690, while the top 10 percent earned over $99,030.

However, the reader should keep in mind that those working as labor relations specialists may be more likely to live in lower-cost of living areas than those working as HR specialists.

For more information, see the Bureau of Labor Statistics page, including the Employment Situation Report, the Human Resources and Labor Relations page and the Human Resources Management Page.