When exactly did the tech boom start? Growth in that sector has been so steep since 1990 that statistician Nathan Yau very scientifically summed it up with the giddy excitement of a kid boarding a roller coaster that hasn’t dropped yet: “Heeeerrrrrrrrrrre weeee goooooooooo!”
But not every sector has been on the same ride, according to a chart by Yau, which graphs data on occupational job growth and decline from the American Community Survey and the Decennial Census since 1970.
The line graph plots the growth and decline of 24 different sectors, ranging from—yes—computer and math, to art and design, social services, farming and fishing, and everything in between, over the past half-century. According to the graph, the computer and math sector outpaced the growth rate of the next fastest-growing sector, business and operations, in the early 1990s. Overall, computer and math collectively has grown a whopping 544% since 1970. (Business and operations grew 293% during that same period.)
The art and design sector has grown over the past 50 years too, though not at the rapid blink-and-you’ll-miss-it rate of computer and math. Since 1970, art and design has grown 102%, overcoming a relatively brief decline between 2000 and 2010. It also had the seventh-highest growth rate of all occupational sectors listed, putting it in the upper third of job types in the chart.
But prepare yourselves: The most recent U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook estimates a mere 3% growth rate for art and design occupations through 2028—”slower than the average for all occupations.” The Bureau of Labor Statistics says more workers will be needed to meet the growing demand for animation and web design. But that’s countered by the fact that a lot of art and design workers are employed within other sectors on the decline, such as publishing. A repeat of the growth we’ve seen in previous decades might be wishful thinking. Or more practically, it might require us, sometime in the future, to redefine what exactly art and design means.