As the nation returns to a state of semi-normal, jobless claims are dropping. However, the still-high unemployment rate is likely to prove nagging simply because so many people remain out of work. But that’s not true in every industry — nor for every applicant. High-demand jobs have far more openings than applicants and they’re likely to stay that way for some time.

“We’re in a contradictory environment,” says Jim McCoy, senior vice president with ManpowerGroup, a multi-national staffing company. “There’s high unemployment, but there’s high demand for some types of work.”

High-demand jobs

Driving, nursing, and customer service positions are all plentiful, he notes. Notably, while some of these high-demand jobs require training and certifications, the required training often can be done in a as little as a few months and, sometimes, while on the job. The rewards can be substantial.

“People who take the opportunity to upskill, with programs that are cheap or free, do themselves a huge favor,” McCoy says. “In the long run, learning new skills is going to increase your marketability and your pay.”

What are these high-demand jobs? How much do they pay? What does it take to qualify for them? And where can you find them?

Trucking/Delivery

The highest-demand job in the country right now is for truck drivers, particularly those who can handle heavy commercial vehicles and tractor-trailer rigs. Nearly 760,000 such trucking positions were open in December, which was nearly three-times the available openings for the second-most high-demand job — registered nurses.

Demand for drivers of light trucks and delivery vans is high, too. With more than 78,000 open positions, it ranked fourth on Manpower’s list of highest-demand positions in December.

Will the demand last? McCoy thinks so. E-commerce drives demand for trucking and delivery. And consumers are increasingly willing to pay a little extra for the convenience.

Generous pay

What do truckers earn? The average base salary is just over $62,000, according to Indeed.com. However, pay can soar well into the six figures — $120,000 to $300,000 — for commercial drivers who take long-haul jobs and those who drive their own trucks. 

Notably, if you drive a big rig, transport hazardous materials, or drive more than a few passengers, you’ll need to get a commercial driver’s license. Technically, there’s no education requirement to get these licenses. But there are tests that require specific knowledge.

Some community colleges offer classes to get commercial licenses. However, many trucking companies also subsidize this training for new hires. C.R. England, for example, puts new drivers into a $6,000 course, but waives more than $4,000 of those fees for drivers who stay with the company for more than a year.

Commercial licenses are not required for driving vans and light delivery trucks for companies like Amazon Flex, GoShare, Citizen Shipper and Truxx. However, these positions require that you have your own vehicle and they also usually pay less — from $18 to $66 per hour.

Nursing

With or without Covid, the aging of the massive Baby Boom generation nearly guarantees that nursing will be a high-demand job for decades. Nursing positions range from entry-level assistants to highly-trained nurse practitioners. Demand for all levels of nurses is high, according to Manpower’s research.

Not surprisingly, both training requirements and salaries vary dramatically based on the type of nursing license you have. Entry-level nurse assistants can secure jobs with little more than a high school degree and a few science courses. However, more advanced nursing positions — registered nurses, nurse practitioners and nurse anesthesiologists — require significantly more education and training.

Of course, they also earn considerably more. Nursing assistants typically earn upwards of $17 per hour. Registered nurses and nurse practitioners can command $100 or more per hour.

The best way to get into nursing may be to start at the assistant level and get the requisite education and training while on the job. This is a particularly attractive option when you work for one of the many health care companies, such as Kaiser Permanente, that subsidize higher-education costs for their staff. 

Nearly every city has full-time nursing positions available, but there are also a wide array of agencies that help nurses find part-time, flexible and traveling positions nationwide. Some good options to consider: IntelyCare, ConnectRN, and TrustedHealth.

Customer service

It’s not sexy, but there’s plenty of demand for people willing and able to handle the phones. Better yet, these high-demand jobs are often remote, flexible and don’t require any education or certifications. These can be ideal jobs for people who need to move frequently because the positions are often as portable as you are.

Kelly Ann McKechnie has a degree in zoology, for instance. However, her husband is in the military, and they move every time he’s redeployed. Instead of constantly looking for new work, she signed on with LiveOps, an online platform that provides customer service representatives for companies operating in 36 different states. She works part-time because she’s also launched a coaching business for triathlons.

However, if you want full-time work, Manpower found nearly 63,000 job openings. Many of these jobs are remote and offer flexible schedules. Pay ranges from $14 to more than $20 per hour.