20 Vocational Job Hotspots
Although the construction industry suffered a major blow from the recession, Payscale.com uncovered twenty places across the country that offer higher than average pay and high demand for skilled trade workers like carpenters, diesel engine repair technicians, and plumbers.
According to Rich Oleck, Director of Member Services for the Building Trades Association, "our members are busier than what they have been in the last two years. It's too soon to tell if the stimulus plan helped but there seems to be more legislation in the pipeline."
Some places with higher demand, like Omaha, Nebraska (listed at #15 below), were not as hard hit by the recession as other parts of the country, according to Oleck. He also notes high demand in parts of Louisiana that are still rebuilding after Hurricane Katrina. Despite this, no southeastern cities appear on PayScale's list because of lower pay, according to Al Lee, Director of Qualitative Data at PayScale.
California appears several times on PayScale's list, which Oleck attributes to fewer foreclosures getting stuck in the state's court system. "California seems to be doing better than Florida because the court system in Florida is holding up a lot of activity with so many cases on their books," he says.
However, as Oleck notes, higher demand for this type of skilled trade work doesn't necessarily correlate to higher pay. In fact, Lee says it's surprising how little the pay varies by geography for vocational jobs. But with a median salary of $45,300 for two to ten years of experience compared to a national median of $38,200, Honolulu, Hawaii is one notable exception, perhaps because of the island's high cost of living.
Still, the top three places for vocational jobs are located in California: Bakersfield, Modesto, and Riverside-San Bernadino-Ontario. That's not surprising considering that the California Building Industry Association just announced that housing across the state is starting to rebound, with a 30 percent increase in housing starts during August of this year compared to last year.
While it's not guaranteed that tradespeople would find work there, Lee says, "clearly where there's more people doing that work, there's likely to be demand for more people."
1. Bakersfield, California - $41,900
Located between Fresno and Los Angeles, Bakersfield tops PaySscale's list of vocational job hotspots list. According to Lee, "there's a lot of housing construction, but most other people drive to Los Angeles and work there." Wherever people live, there is bound to be demand for builders and home repair people.
2. Modesto, California - $41,300
Lying 92 miles east of San Francisco, this Northern California community boasts an impressive ratio of 1.7 vocational employees to the national average. The area's roads also underwent major repairs or repaving in mid-2008 to the tune of an estimated $120,000,000, adding to demand for workers.
3. Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, California - $40,600
In addition to cost of living, higher levels unionization in California may also be driving up pay rates in the Golden State, according to Laurence Shatkin, author of 300 Best Jobs Without a Four Year Degree (JIST Publishing). "Even if you don't work in a union, if you're working in a unionized occupation and there's a lot of unionization around you, that raises the pay rates for everyone," says Shatkin.
4. Honolulu, Hawaii - $45,300
This financial hub of the Pacific Islands offers skilled labor higher pay than any other city in the U.S., approximately 16 percent higher than average. Dependent on tourism for a lot of its economic activity, Honolulu certainly felt the recession, but it's strength as a major port of trade, military spending in the area and a lack of dependence on major banks buoys Honolulu. Plus, "all of those vacation homes need to be maintained," says Lee.
5. Worcester, Massachusetts - $40,000
Like a lot of the towns on this list, Worcester is a town where people live, then commute to a nearby metro. That set-up creates demand for home repair, along with the capacity to pay for it, says Lee. Just 40 miles outside of Boston, Worcester is the second biggest town in New England. Many of its current top employers are in the healthcare industry and higher education, boosting economic stability in the town and providing sources of jobs for skilled labor.
6. Springfield, Massachusetts - $37,700
7. Fresno, California - $40,600
8. Stockton, California - $40,600
9. Poughkeepsie-Newburgh-Middletown, New York - $38,200
10. Harrisburg-Carlisle, Pennsylvania - $37,900
11. New Haven-Milford, Connecticut - $41,500
12. Ogden-Clearfield, Utah - $34,900
14. Oklahoma City, Oklahoma - $36,100
15. Omaha-Council Bluffs, Nebraska/Iowa - $39,300
16. Albuquerque, New Mexico - $36,800
17. Sacramento-Arden-Arcade-Roseville, California - $43,100
18. Hartford-West Hartford-East Hartford, Connecticut - $41,400
19. Tulsa, Oklahoma - $36,900
20. Grand Rapids-Wyoming, Michigan/Wyoming - $35,500
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Susan Johnston has written about careers for PayScale.com, The Boston Globe, Experience.com, US News & World Report, and other publications. Her articles on business and lifestyle topics have appeared in DailyCandy.com, Dance Retailer News, Pizza Today, Mint.com, Self magazine, and in two essay anthologies. She's also the author of LinkedIn and Lovin' It (Rockable Press, 2011).