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Editorial: N.C. reflects shift in jobs

Want to work for one of the biggest employers in North Carolina? You have two choices for a career: store clerk or nurse.
The top non-governmental employer in the state is Walmart, followed somewhat distantly by Duke University Health System, according to the Charlotte Business Journalís list of largest N.C. employers. The list shows Walmart with 52,569 workers and Duke Health with 33,525.
Health care and retail companies dominate the list, a reflection of North Carolinaís shift from manufacturing to a service-industry economy. Salisbury-based Delhaize America/Food Lion ranks fourth with 30,000 employees in the state.
Banks are also among the stateís biggest employers ó Wells Fargo, 20,000; Bank of America, 17,000; BB&T, 12,154. But Bank of America recently announced 30,000 jobs to be cut nationwide, and all banks are trimming expenses. The financial-services industryís employment fell to 7.61 million workers in August from a high of 8.35 million in December 2006, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The bureauís most recent list of occupations with the largest job growth parallels what weíre seeing in North Carolina. Projecting from 2008 to 2018, experts predict the most growth in these top seven fields: registered nurses, home health aides, customer service representatives, food prep-serving workers (including fast food), personal and home care aides, retail salespersons, general office clerks.
Only when you get to the Bureau of Labor Statisticsí eighth-fastest-growing field ó accountants and auditors ó do you see a job that requires a bachelorís degree.
Donít take that to mean todayís high school students are wasting their time taking the SAT and filling out college applications. Hardly. The fastest-growing or most numerous jobs arenít always the most desirable in terms of pay and prestige. In a report released last year, The College Board said the median earnings of full-time workers with bachelorís degrees were $55,700 in 2008 ó $21,900 more than those of workers who finished only high school. College graduates who focused on science, technology, engineering or math ó STEM ó generally fare even better.
The point of all this? Weíre not sure, except to focus for a moment on the changing job scene. The textile mills are gone, replaced job-wise by a mega-retailer that is the largest employer in the world. But the real growth in jobs and salary potential lies in health care, and the higher your level of education in that field, the better off youíll be.

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