A recurring theme at our staffing industry confer­ences is the advantages of “nichefying,” or being a specialist rather than a jack-of-all-trades firm. Typically, this means going after a specific set (or sets) of occupations, such as information technology jobs or marketing/creative roles. This fosters sales and recruiting expertise in specific job domains and leverages a database of candidates across multiple clients.

Yet, some firms have gone down a different path — specializing in certain categories of clients, such as financial institutions, hospitals or the govern­ment, which may involve a variety of occupations. For example, some staffing companies supply everything from nurses to janitors for hospitals. This approach comes with its own set of advantages, such as playing a consul­tative role in helping the client address industry-specific trends and challenges, as well as cross-selling to the various departments within an organization.

Still, many firms are somewhere in the middle, with a combination of occupation and industry specializa­tion. In addition, there’s significant overlap between the two approaches — similar jobs tend to be furnished by similar companies. With that in mind, let’s examine recent trends (and poten­tial staffing opportunities) in various industries, based on Staffing Industry Analysts’ Employment Trends by Geog­raphy Tool. According to a 2014 Staffing Industry Analysts report, the five indus­tries most frequently served by staffing firms surveyed in three different years (2010, 2012 and 2014) were consistently manufacturing, healthcare, technology/ telecom, finance/insurance and business services.rrchart

Manufacturing. As of the third quarter of 2015, manufacturing employ­ment was up 1.1% year-over-year as compared to a 2.1% jobs increase across all industries. Though growth in this industry has been lackluster, partially due to the strong dollar which makes manufacturing exports more expen­sive to other countries, there are a few strong subcategories and geographies. The two fastest-growing components of manufacturing are railroad rolling stock manufacturing, 11.1%, and beverage manufacturing, 7.2%; of the two, the latter is significantly larger in terms of employment. An increasing amount of freight traffic has been moving from trucks to railway cars, prompting hiring in this fast-growing space. On the beverage front, while US soda consump­tion has flagged, the demand for bottled water has surged.

On a geographic basis, the fastest-growing states in terms of manufac­turing employment are Florida, 3.8% year-over-year, and Oregon, 3.7%.

Healthcare and social assistance. With more than 16 million Americans newly insured as a result of the Afford­able Care Act, it’s no surprise that the healthcare industry represents a high-growth opportunity. The sector added more than 500,000 jobs year-over-year, or a 2.6% growth rate nationally.

Within healthcare, employment in outpatient care centers grew at the fastest rate of 5.2%. Outpatient facilities may employ not only traditional health­care practitioners but also counselors, social workers, information and record clerks, and administrative assistants. The highest-growth states in the health­care and social assistance category are Colorado, 5.1%, and Nevada, 5.0%.

Technology/telecom. The Bureau of Labor Statistics category that perhaps best captures trends in information tech­nology industries is computer systems design and related services, which grew by an impressive 6.4% year-over-year. This primarily business-to-business (B2B) category grew somewhat faster than the more consumer-facing high-tech category of electronic shopping and mail-order houses (think Amazon and eBay) at 4.8%, and slower than soft­ware publishers, 6.9%. Hotbed states in computer systems design and related services include Kansas, 23.9% year-over-year employment growth, and Arizona, 12.8% growth.

In contrast to IT, telecommunications has taken a major hit, with a 3.1% year-over-year decline in wired telecommuni­cations carrier employment and a 15.3% drop in wireless telecommunications carrier jobs. The telecom sector faces stiff competition from third-party voice appli­cations such as Skype and WhatsApp.

Finance/insurance. While this indus­try’s employment growth of 2.0% is about average, a very large and fast-growing subcate­gory is insurance agencies and brokerages, which added more than 67,000 jobs and experienced a 6.7% growth rate. The profusion of new health insurance policyholders has contributed to the hiring in this sector. The fastest-growing states in terms of finance/insurance employment are Utah, 6.6%, and Arizona, 5.8%.

Business Services. This cate­gory maps loosely to the BLS’ profes­sional and technical services. Bright spots within this catch-all B2B category include specialized design services, 4.4% year-over-year employment growth, and management and technical consulting, 3.3% growth. On a regional basis, Mich­igan, 7.9% year-over-year growth, and Missouri, 7.8%, topped the list.

While opportunities abound in these various industries, shifting your firm’s focus from an occupation-centered approach to an industry specializa­tion brings its share of risks. Industries are more cyclical, whereas demand for particular occupations is diversified across a variety of sectors. Even govern­ment spending can be volatile, as any government staffing supplier can attest to from the fiscal cliff of 2012.

But whether you carve up your busi­ness in terms of occupation segment or industry vertical, it pays to be aware of industry-specific employment trends; your next big account might be lurking in one of the categories mentioned above. z