Outlook shows increase in wages, demand for degrees

Lisa Katz| Crain’s Detroit Blog

Early 2015 job postings signal a focus on problem solving, communication and customer service skills for job seekers. Employers are also increasing advertised wages and want workers with a degree. What else can early 2015 online job postings reveal about the year to come?

Online job postings from the first several days of the year can provide insight into what employers are seeking right now and what is likely to trend throughout 2015. Southeast Michigan employers jump-started their search for workers this year, posting 11,811 jobs online between Jan. 1 and Jan. 13. Of these, 36 percent noted communication skills as key for employment. Just more than 1,400 postings (17 percent of the total) highlighted problem-solving skills and another 17 percent emphasized customer-service skills.

These skills are universal across nearly every job for which a person could apply, so they are important for all job seekers to have. Whether a person works in retail, consulting, IT or skilled trades, knowing how to analyze and solve a problem, communicate clearly and coherently and work with the customer or client are key to career success.

The top posting jobs in Southeast Michigan for the first 13 days of 2015 are in the graphic, below:

No single occupation dominated the nearly 12,000 online postings that kick-off this year (even with more than 650 postings, openings for registered nurses still represent only 5.5 percent of the total). The distribution of postings was fairly equal across top occupation clusters in the region. About one-third of the top 10 in-demand jobs are in health care, one-third in retail and hospitality and nearly a quarter in IT.

What technical skills do job seekers need? If 2015 is anything like 2014 for IT workers, demand will focus on skills like systems software, Java, Python, data engineering and warehousing, and network security. (For more details, see the data from LinkedIn shown in last week’s blog post.)

In other fields like engineering and design (771 job postings Jan. 1–13), employers are looking for proficiency in computer aided drafting and design (CAD) software like AutoCAD and CATIA, mechanical engineering and manufacturing processes, and product development and validation. Even more emphasized for engineers and designers are soft skills like communication and problem solving. Employers also want engineers and designers to be able to manage projects, write and be organized. Employer emphasis on soft skills is likely to continue through the rest of 2015.


Many workers should also expect an increase in wages. Approximately 15 percent of online postings include a wage or wage range. Advertised wages in online postings in January 2014 averaged $50,268. Early 2015 postings (Jan. 1-13) show an average wage of $56,484, a 12 percent increase from last year, much higher than the typical inflation-based increase of 2 percent to 3 percent. Not only is the average advertised wage more than $50,000 but the distribution of wage ranges is moving more toward higher pay.

Distribution of salaries advertised in online job postings in Southeast Michigan
To-Date January 2015
More than $75,00021%27%
$50,000 to $74,99918%21%
$35,000 to $49,99917%17%
Less than $35,00044%34%

Last year in January, 44 percent of postings advertised a wage less than $35,000 annually; this year, only a third of postings have a salary below $35,000. Two-thirds of postings in Southeast Michigan advertise an annual salary over $35,000 and 48 percent advertise an annual salary more than $50,000. This is great news for the region in terms of attracting talent and continuing to grow the economy.

What else should job seekers expect in 2015? Another key trend is a dual emphasis on higher education and experience. The majority of job postings that list an educational attainment preference note that at least a bachelor’s degree is preferred (about  60 percent of postings list an education attainment preference).  Experience is also critical.  While many posted jobs do not require more than five years’ experience, having at least two to five years of experience is important. This means internships and other work-based experiences for students throughout all years of education are even more important to help them get a foot in the door.

Distribution of Education Attainment and Years of Experience Requested in Online Job Postings in Southeast Michigan (Jan. 1-13, 2015)
ExperienceGraduate or professional degreeBachelor’s degreeCertificate or Associate’s degreeHigh school
8+ years of experience2%5%0%1%
5 to 8 years of experience2%6%0%0%
2 to 5 years of experience7%22%3%5%
Less than 2 years of experience6%18%6%19%

Employers want workers who can communicate well, analyze and solve problems, have customer service skills, a degree, and some experience. Early data shows that employers are willing to pay for these qualities. If current projections hold, we should see continued prosperity in the region with a highly qualified workforce and competitive wages to support the growing economy.

This blog post was prepared with research and content from Colby Spencer-Cesaro, director for research, Workforce Intelligence Network.

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