Major developments in key industries and what they mean for 2024 and beyond
A year ago, you couldn’t talk about the economy without at least whispering – and in some cases shouting – about a looming recession. In the timeline you’re reading this, the U.S. economy grew at a whopping 4.9% annualized rate in third quarter, well outpacing forecasts. Even so, that news was accompanied by warnings that things could slow down into the new year. By now, we should know better than to take predictions too seriously, or even make them at all. But we can’t help but wonder what the future holds. It’s in our nature to be curious and to try to prepare for what’s coming. So as one year draws to a close, ushering a new one in its place, we just can’t help ourselves. We’re going to make some predictions. In the hopes of minimizing our chances of being stupendously wrong, though, we’re basing ours on trends that have been developing and will soon come to fruition.
Things Will Get More Sustainable
Sustainability has gone from a nice-to-have to a must for businesses in every industry, so we’re hardly going out on a limb by predicting that more companies will emphasize it. But it’s worth taking notice of just how many aspects our lives sustainability will touch as organizations strive to meet net-zero and ESG goals.
Imagine an ordinary, average house in the near future. Take a tour through it, and in the kitchen you might easily expect to find some plant-based or lab-grown meat. Maybe it hasn’t replaced farmed meat entirely, but the homeowners are at least willing to try it. If there’s fish, it might come labeled as wild-caught or sustainably raised. Depending on how adventurous the residents are, there might even be some insect or seaweed snacks in the pantry. Whatever leftovers are in the fridge might be stored in bioplastics rather than petrochemical-based plastic.
The stovetop is probably electric rather than gas, and if you go down to the basement you might find a heat pump instead of a gas furnace. Heat pump sales outpaced gas furnace sales in the U.S. for the first time last year, and one industry executive predicts that no one will have a fossil fuel furnace in 30 years’ time. The HVAC system is likely connected to a smart thermostat that knows what rooms are in use and regulates temperature accordingly, saving the owners money on their energy bill.
Head out to the garage and you’ll probably find a charging station for the family EV. After 2035, you won’t be able to purchase a new gas-powered cars in a list of states that includes California, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Washington, and the list is sure to grow.
The house next door will be like that, too, and so will the whole neighborhood, and the whole country.
On the Job
Along with that economic growth have come more jobs. September’s addition of 336,000 nonfarm jobs nearly double projections for the month, and wage growth has been outpacing inflation. With unemployment still near the lowest levels in five decades, it seems that job numbers like these can’t continue forever, but there is great promise in a few sectors. Leisure and hospitality jobs led the gains in September as the travel industry continues its impressive post-Covid showing. Travel seems poised for another big year in 2024, especially with Paris hosting the Summer Olympics and Germany hosting the European men’s soccer championships.
Manufacturing investment is way up, with new factories announced all over the country. They will contribute to construction job growth in the short term and manufacturing job growth in the long run as manufacturers focus on reshoring and nearshoring their supply chains. A large percentage of those jobs will be in sustainability efforts such as plants for EVs and EV batteries, along with renewable energy. And while automation will continue to play a bigger role in manufacturing and supply chains, there will be a new sector of high-paying jobs for people with the right skills to get the best results out of AI.
As for white-collar workers, their bosses want them back in the office, at least a few days of the week. They’re certain to meet resistance, especially those pushing for a full-time return to the office. Hybrid work could provide a happy medium. For those companies that don’t currently have office space, they might find some good deals on renting or buying if commercial real estate values continue their downward trajectory.
As Resume Builder chief career adviser Stacie Haller said, “The end of 2024 is still a long way away, and the job market is constantly changing. It remains to be seen if businesses will follow through on their RTO plans, especially when taking into account the recent backlash against major employers who have forced employees back to office.”
And on the Road
Technological advancements continue at an astonishing pace, never slowing down. As we reflect on our exploration of the top tech advances of the last decade, we witness how concepts that were once unfamiliar swiftly become indispensable components of our daily existence.
This is particularly true in the transportation sector, where the drive for sustainability is pushing innovation. In a few years’ time, eVTOL air taxis could be helping passengers evade the traffic in congested areas of major cities – which are only going to keep getting bigger. Electric planes will be flying short, regional routes in some parts of the world in the next 10 years, and sustainable aviation fuel will be powering long-haul flights.
For road trips, the first private passenger rail line to operate in the U.S. in a century has begun high-speed service between Miami and Orlando and is looking to connect Southern California and Las Vegas by high-speed rail in time for the 2028 Summer Olympics. Other regional high-speed rail projects are in the works as well. If you want the thrill of the open road, you’ll be able to charge your EV quickly and easily as a nationwide network of charging stations goes up, with automakers working together on systems.
They’ll take us to places that seem at once vaguely familiar but totally revamped, much the same way the present connects our past and future.