In a historically strong market for talent, here’s where the best jobs are

June 7, 2021, 12:21 PM UTC

A year ago the U.S. economy plunged into its worst job market since the era of the Great Depression, with the unemployment rate soaring to an 80-year high of 14.7%. When it came to job hunting, workers during the early months of lockdowns had essentially zero negotiating power. How quickly things have changed! The COVID-19 recession recovery is the swiftest on record: On Friday, the jobless rate dipped to 5.8%. Now, the power is firmly back in the hands of job seekers again.

Already, that flipped power dynamic has translated into more job hopping and employers racing to dole out raises. Indeed, one in four workers say they plan to switch jobs once the pandemic ends, according to a recent Prudential Financial survey. Why? Among those who plan to switch jobs, 80% say they are concerned about their career growth.

But this isn’t the pre-pandemic economy. A lot has changed—some of it permanently. For starters, the pandemic-spurred digital explosion has killed off some jobs while creating new opportunities for others. As workers consider exploring this hot job market, Fortune looked through the data to identify where applicants can find opportunity.

Here are four big trends we found.

1. Hard-hit economies like California and Hawaii offer a lot of opportunity

The shutdowns rocked the entire nation. But in tourism-based economies it was a knockout punch. Times Square and the Las Vegas strip became ghost towns, while normally bustling Miami Beach was deserted. Even as the recovery kicked off, those places lagged behind. Indeed, the highest jobless rates in the country can still be found in tourism-heavy states like California (8.3%), Nevada (8%), New York (8.2%), and Hawaii (8.5%). The one exception being Florida, which saw its pandemic restrictions lift more quickly and now has a 4.8% jobless rate.

It’s a bit counterintuitive, but these states with the highest levels of joblessness are actually where the most jobs are being created. Why? Well, with the successful rollout of COVID-19 vaccines, those states are dropping most of their restrictions. And, more important, Americans are ready to start traveling again (more on that below). In the most recent job reports, these tourism-heavy states are posting the highest rates of job growth.

2. Pent-up demand will spur a tourism recovery

In the depths of the crisis, the nation was down 22.4 million jobs. Since then, the historically quick recovery has brought back most of those positions. We’re now down 7.6 million jobs. Of those yet to return, 2.8 million are in leisure and hospitality—by far the hardest-hit industry during the pandemic.

But things are looking up.

When Fortune and SurveyMonkey took the pulse of Americans in April, 34% of U.S. adults said they were comfortable attending big gatherings. But when we asked again in May, that figure shot up to 46%. That’s a massive jump from the 20% levels found in our July 2020 poll. That tells us the vaccine rollout is corresponding with a jump in consumer confidence. Already, air travel and hotel bookings are soaring. If this continues, conferences and business travel might even start to ramp up before the end of the summer. 

The most rewarding opportunities in the industry might come on the small-business front. During the pandemic, thousands of gyms, restaurants, and hotels shuttered. Now that consumers are ready to mingle with the public again, there’s an entrepreneurial opportunity for new businesses to enter the space. Not to mention, they will have the incentive of discounted commercial space.

3. Biden is all in on green energy jobs

More than 70% of new electricity capacity created this year will come from solar and wind power. Innovation has turned green energy from a fantasy into a serious threat to coal. And the green sector could soon see further gains: President Joe Biden’s looming infrastructure package would help the renewables industry secure billions. His goal? The White House hopes his infrastructure plan gets the U.S. to carbon-free electricity by 2035.

“More aggressive moves by the incoming Biden administration to act
on climate and improve the nation’s energy infrastructure could speed the shift,” Burning Glass Technologies, a Boston-based labor market analytics firm, wrote in a recent report. In that same report, they projected the renewables sector will come close to doubling in the next five years.

Burning Glass Technologies expects strong demand for jobs like nuclear engineer (median salary of $113,385), wastewater engineer ($82,016), energy analyst ($70,012), and solar installer ($33,761).

4. Cloud will soon employ more workers than the entire utilities industry

Even before the pandemic, cloud computing was the growth engine driving hiring for tech titans like Amazon, Google, and Microsoft. The pandemic only added fuel to the fire. There are now more than 450,000 workers employed in the cloud computing business. But it’s only going up from here. Burning Glass Technologies expects the cloud sector, which pays a median salary of nearly $80,000, to expand to more than 1.8 million jobs in the next five years. That will be close to triple the entire 540,000 employed by the U.S. utilities industry.

“Over a year into the pandemic, digital adoption curves aren’t slowing down. They’re accelerating, and it’s just the beginning,” Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said after his company announced its stellar earnings, driven by its cloud unit Microsoft Azure, in April.

Finally, I want to leave Fortune readers with one salary tip. Employers are notoriously discrete when it comes to their salary bands. Though some sites like Glassdoor attempt to fill the void, their data is often old and unverified. Here’s a tip from yours truly, Fortune’s data editor: Check out H-1B visa data. When private companies hire workers on a work visa, those salary offers become public record. You can go here to find the U.S. Department of Labor visa data by employer and title. The data set even allows you to refine the search by year. 

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