White collars are dominant trend in Maryland trades Census also shows work force up 25% in '80s

September 06, 1993|By James Bock | James Bock,Staff Writer

If jobs, like clothes, drift in and out of vogue, then paralegals, computer programmers, occupational therapists, underwriters and travel agents have become some of Maryland's most fashionable vocations, according to census data.

And general office clerks, machine operators, assemblers, hand packers, typists and most farmers are about as popular as mink stoles and polyester leisure suits.

The tally of what's hot and not in how people make a living comes from a recently released Maryland Office of Planning report, the most detailed look yet at workplace changes from 1980 to 1990. (The figures don't track the effects of recession, sluggish recovery and corporate downsizing in the early 1990s.)

By 1990, the sheer number of people doing certain jobs in Maryland was daunting: more than 161,000 bosses (salaried managers and administrators) and 108,000 secretaries; nearly 39,000 government administrators and officials; 24,600 computer programmers and 22,600 computer analysts; nearly 24,000 lawyers; and more than 18,000 physicians.

There were more bartenders (5,379) than clergy (5,346); more groundskeepers and gardeners (13,294) than farmers (6,600); more insurance salespeople (12,098) than funeral directors (660); and many more hairdressers and cosmetologists (13,980) than barbers (1,692).

The statistics confirm broad, previously reported trends in Maryland:

* The civilian work force grew 25 percent to nearly 2.6 million during the 1980s.

* Women poured into the labor market and moved into management positions in unprecedented numbers.

* White-collar jobs, especially technical and sales positions, burgeoned. Blue-collar manufacturing employment shriveled.

Some surprises

But the report, which monitored changes in 512 job categories, also offers a richer view of a complex work force.

It shows, for example, that unlike most farmers, Doug Barberry of Harford County isn't out of fashion. That's because the 46-year-old Churchville sod farmer belongs to a job category (horticultural specialty farmers) that more than doubled in number during the decade.

As traditional farms are sold to make way for subdivisions and golf courses, the horticulturists -- which include landscape contractors, tree growers and nursery workers -- usually prosper.

"We sell to golf courses, cemeteries, landscape contractors, builders, the federal government, just about anybody who needs grass," says Mr. Barberry, whose family's Aldino Sod Farms prospered in the mid-1980s but has struggled since the economy slowed.

"There's no one around here making any money at corn and soybeans. Traditional farms just go broke," Mr. Barberry says.

Indeed, the number of Maryland farmers dropped by nearly 2,000 during the decade, the report says, while the separate category of farm workers declined by almost 2,300.

The report also suggests some exceptions to the major work force trends, such as women's growing role, the high-tech trend of the economy, the decline of blue-collar work and the fortunes of blacks and other minorities.

Women indeed made quantum leaps in many areas. They at least tripled their numbers in dozens of occupations, ranging from lawyers, engineers and architects to firefighters, stevedores and tool and die makers.

But they also found jobs disappearing in such traditional pink-collar positions as office clerks, waitresses, typists, telephone operators and dressmakers.

The expansion of the technical and professional sectors was certainly significant. Computer analysts, accountants, managers and lawyers joined the Maryland work force in droves.

But economic growth also created quintessentially low-tech, less glamorous service jobs in equally great numbers: more cashiers, cooks, truck drivers, receptionists and child-care workers.

Some relatively small fields grew the most in percentage terms, everything from sheriffs to travel agents.

Travel industry flying high

Donald M. Davidoff, 28, marketing manager for Belair Travel in Bowie, said airline deregulation, 1980s prosperity and women's higher profile in the labor market all spurred the increase in travel agents. He noted that most agencies are small businesses owned by women.

"We saw the leisure travel business skyrocket through the 1980s," he says. "Travel and vacations have gone from being a desire or a luxury to actually being a need."

Blue-collar work declined dramatically in Maryland. The ranks of some machine operators, industrial mechanics and hand packers were cut by nearly half as manufacturing withered.

The list of vanishing jobs included middle-class staples that had long sustained Maryland families: telephone installers, welders, butchers, stock clerks, crane operators, furnace and kiln operators, millwrights, typesetters and railroad workers, to name few.

Yet not all hands-on occupations were losers. The small category of patternmakers, layout workers and cutters grew tenfold, and hand-engraving and printing occupations quintupled.

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