Bls: Hispanics, Nurses Poised for Big Gains in U.S. Workforce

Article excerpt

LABOR PROJECTIONS

Anthony Olvera's career prospects are promising. He is young, Hispanic and has five years of nursing experience-characteristics that bode well in an environment where the workforce is aging rapidly, there's a dearth of skilled talent and diversity is on the rise.

Olvera's demographics are a virtual mirror of the Bureau of Labor Statistics' latest workforce projections and predictions through 2016. The Hispanic workforce will climb by 30 percent by that year, while nurses make up the largest projected increase of any occupational group tracked by the BLS.

Overall, the civilian labor force will increase by 12.8 million, bringing the number of workers to 164.2 million by the middle of the next decade. While the figure appears to be a healthy increase, longtime HR executives may recall that 17.5 million workers entered the labor force between 1996 and 2006.

"It's clear that the workforce growth rate is decelerating," says Mitra Toossi, an economist at the BLS in Washington. Indeed, the current rate of growth is 8.5 percent, significantly less than the 13.1 percent rise in the previous decade.

What's more, the portion of the population that is actively employed or seeking employment-known as the labor force participation rate-is declining and is expected to level off at 65.5 percent by 2016, Toossi notes. By comparison, workforce participation was at 67.1 percent in 1997.

Toossi attributes this to several factors, including an aging population.

"The reality is that as workers get older, they begin to drop out of the labor force," Toossi says. "When that happens, participation rates take a hit."

The number of workers 5 5 and older is expected to reach about 23 million in less than a decade. This represents a growth rate of 46.7 percent, which is almost 5.5 times the projections for the overall labor force.

Yet employers shouldn't worry about an overnight exodus of workers, says Bob Morison, director of research at the BSG Concours Group, a consultancy based in Kingwood, Texas. Many baby boomerspeople born between 1946 and 1964intend to remain active, but it will be on their terms. …