Suburban Jobs Are Growing Fast, But What is a ‘Suburban Job’?

December 10, 2019
Suburb Houses
Photo by Tom Rumble on Unsplash

One order for a lawn and garage, please. More affordable than most urban areas, people are settling down for life in the ‘burbs. Now not only are they living there, but the number of jobs in the suburbs is growing as well. But what is a suburban job? Urban jobs conjure images of tech bros, and rural jobs are pegged as those with high land-demand such as farming. But suburban jobs are harder to pin down. For example, an engineer may not seem like a dead ringer for suburban employment, but the U.S. Census Bureau found that nearly half of some specialty engineers such as geological or sales engineers, are in the suburbs. 

Suburbs are increasingly not just where Americans live, but where they work. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages, 32 percent of U.S. employment is in the suburbs of large metropolitan areas—that is, in the medium- and lower-density counties within metropolitan areas that contain at least 1 million people. That is on par with the 32 percent of the population that lives in the suburbs of these metros. (A slight majority of Americans lives in suburbs overall, but this analysis looks specifically at suburbs of large metros.)

However, the jobs of the suburbs look different from city jobs. The urban revival that has drawn new residents into city neighborhoods—although overstated—has also affected where people work.

To see this, let’s start by looking closely at the kinds of jobs found in the suburbs. Naturally, with a large share of the population, the suburbs have a large share of jobs that tend to be found wherever people live. These “everywhere jobs” include retail sales roles, elementary and middle school teachers, hairdressers, and many other occupations that serve customers face to face.

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