Introducing your 2019 North Carolina Statewide Star Jobs!

Thursday, January 3, 2019
Jeff Rosenthal

How would you even begin to try to figure this out?

Identifying the “best” or “most-promising” jobs is somewhat of a subjective exercise, but it’s the mission of LEAD and our counterparts in other states not only to produce labor market data, but also to publish information that non-economists can understand and use.  We often see things like Hot Jobs, Jobs In-Demand, High Wage/High Growth jobs and assorted ways to evaluate occupation quality.  At LEAD, we have updated our methodology to incorporate new data and publish our list, which we call Star Jobs. Before describing how we made updates, here are a few highlights of the 2019 Star Jobs for North Carolina (lists by region will be published in February).

  • 5-star jobs usually require some post-secondary education.  Of the 79 5-star jobs, 71 require post-secondary education for entry, and 61 (77.2%) require at least a Bachelor’s Degree.
  • Most occupations (66% or 329 of 501 comparable) did not change their star rating from 2017 to 2019.  This shows relative consistency in career options over time, as most occupations do not drastically change quality over two years.
  • 19 occupations are new to the 2019 5-star list.  These are from a variety of occupational groups such as Business & Financial Operations (Compliance Officers; Logisticians; Compensation, Benefits, & Job Analysis Specialists), Architecture & Engineering (Electrical Engineers; Electronics Engineers, Exc. Computer; Industrial Engineers), and Sales & Related (Insurance Sales Agents; Sales Representatives, Wholesale & Manufacturing, Exc. Technical & Scientific Products; Sales Engineers).
  • 17 occupations fell from the 5-star list from 2017.  These are from a variety of occupational groups such as Educational, Training, & Library (Postsecondary Teachers in Mathematical Science, Biological Science, and Criminal & Law Enforcement) and Healthcare Practitioners & Technical (Optometrists; Surgeons; Cardiovascular Technologists & Technicians; Licensed Practical & Licensed Vocational Nurses).  Each still has very good career potential at 4 stars.
  • There are 4 occupations with exceptionally high growth rates (above 3% annualized), including 2 occupations (*) that were projected above 3% annualized growth rates from the last statewide projections cycle (2014-2024).  They are:
    • Solar Photovoltaic Installers (4.04%)
    • Statisticians* (3.44%)
    • Home Health Aides* (3.36%)
    • Software Developers, Applications (3.12%)

The Previous Version

In 2017, we developed Star Jobs as a modification of some work that Louisiana had done to look at occupations.  We preferred the Star Jobs system over our Hot Jobs list because we could show evaluations of a wider variety of occupations than simply listing only the top occupational prospects.  The 2017 Star Jobs Methodology was based on 3 key variables:

  1. Wages
  2. Growth Rate
  3. Total Openings (Growth + Replacement)

We rated most occupations with published projections, but we did not rate very small occupations, occupations with “All Other” titles that had a wide variety of occupations within it, and difficult-to-project occupations like Clergy and Farmers.  We had a few different rules like occupations with a variable with a very low value should not necessarily have a high star rating, and combinations of low values should not necessarily have high star ratings.  Examples of occupations with lowered ratings included Home Health Aides, who had amongst the highest values for growth rates and total openings, but amongst the lowest values for wages, and Postal Service Clerks who had good wages, but a low growth rate, and lower than average openings.

The Impact of New Projections Methodology

For the new 2016-2026 occupational projections, the Bureau of Labor Statistics utilized a new projections methodology that better captured what used to be ‘replacements’.  (For further information, please visit our LEAD Feed Article).  Now, the occupational projections have three main components:

  1. Change - which is equivalent to growth
  2. Transfers - which capture people leaving an occupation for a different occupation
  3. Exits- which capture people leaving an occupation and the labor force entirely, like retirees and those leaving the labor force for other reasons like starting a family or returning to school full-time.

Given the different measurement of Total Openings (now Change + Transfers + Exits), we tested a variety of different alternatives to make sure that we were still properly evaluating career prospects.  Inevitably, we kept a similar model, and modified two of the rules mentioned above.

The 2019 Methodology

We have published our new methodology here.  It was based on similar measures as the 2017 version:

  1. Wages
  2. Growth Rate
  3. Total Openings (Change + Transfers + Exits)

Our ratings are:

Stars Prospects Characteristics
5 Best Growing (rate and openings) jobs that have above median wages. 
4 Very Good Growing jobs that generally have at least median wages.
3 Good Generally above average in at least 2 of the 3 criteria.
2 Fair Generally low wage or low growth (rate and openings).
1 Poor Typically, low wage and low growth (rate and openings).

In order to get a better picture of what the ratings look like, let’s see a few examples:

Occupation Star Rating Median Annual Wage Growth Rate Total Openings
State Overall Values (Median Wage for all jobs, Growth Rate for all employment)   $34,750 0.89  
Physician Assistants 5 $99,240 2.82 3,814
Purchasing Managers 4 $109,070 0.97 1,815
Private Detectives and Investigators 3 $48,240 1.21 758
Food Cooking Machine Operators and Tenders 2 $26,480 1.03 1,092
Photographic Process Workers and Processing Machine Operators 1 $25,680 -1.71 729

Through these examples across different occupational groups, we can see that better paying and growing occupations generally got better ratings than worse paying and shrinking occupations.

Finally, we made two minor modifications to account for changes with the new projections methodology.  

The first was to ensure that very well-paying occupations could not earn too low of a rating.  As mentioned above, we had rules in place to ensure that poorly paying occupations could not earn too high of a rating.  We previously did not need a rule to protect the high-paying positions, but some high-paying positions were beginning to see potentially lower ratings as a result of fewer openings, or even slightly declining occupational projections like Chief Executive Officers. 

The second was to ensure that smaller occupations with good career prospects would not be hurt by the rankings from the new methodology.  We had a rule that previously read ‘If an occupation has a measure of growth (rate or number) in the lowest 3 deciles, it cannot earn more than 3 stars.’  With the new projections methodology for Total Openings, some smaller occupations with solid career prospects had a growth number (Total Openings) in the 3rd decile.  Each of these 11 occupations paid very well and were projected to grow at a strong rate, as well as had a low turnover rate (Change +Transfers/Base Year), likely indicating workers do not frequently leave these occupations. Therefore, these 11 occupations (which included Surgeons, Optometrists, and Aerospace Engineers amongst others), that would have been downgraded to 3 stars under the old rules, now retain 4 stars.

Where to Find the Information

As mentioned above, you can access the 2019 Statewide Star Jobs on our NC Commerce Website. Currently, the 2019 Star Jobs are only ready at the state level.  Once the 2026 sub-state projections are completed by the end of February, we will provide the accompanying 2019 Star Jobs at the sub-state level.  At this point, we will update the Star Jobs across all of our platforms, including our easy-to-use website.  Until then, our Star Jobs site will include local and statewide star job ratings from 2017.

If you have any questions or feedback, please do not hesitate to contact us at: