Occupational Employment Projections to 2020

By Lockard, C. Brett; Wolf, Michael | Monthly Labor Review, January 2012 | Go to article overview

Occupational Employment Projections to 2020


Lockard, C. Brett, Wolf, Michael, Monthly Labor Review


From 2010 to 2020, the U.S. economy is projected to add 20.5 million new jobs as total employment grows from nearly 143.1 million to more than 163.5 million. This 14.3-percent growth reflects the assumption of a full-employment economy in 2020. Out of 749 detailed occupations, 657 are projected to grow, while 92 are projected to decline. The fastest growth is expected among healthcare, personal care, and community and social service occupations.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) produces these long-term projections of occupational employment to supply those who seek or provide career guidance with information on how the labor market is changing. In addition, policymakers and educational authorities use BLS employment projections for long-term policy planning. Finally, BLS projections are used by states in preparing state and area projections.

Detailed descriptions of more than 500 occupations, including reasons they are projected to grow or decline, are included in the Occupational Outlook Handbook, a BLS career guidance publication. (1) This article focuses on broad results of the projections and is designed for those seeking a comprehensive overview of the projections data. Those seeking career guidance information and information on specific occupations will likely find the Handbook more suitable.

The first section of this article describes the factors that provide context for generating the occupational projections, including projections and assumptions for growth in the population, labor force, and gross domestic product (GDP). The next section describes the methods used to produce the occupational projections, as well as the concepts and terminology that will be used throughout the rest of the article. The third section looks at projections for major occupational groups and describes trends across groups. The fourth section presents projections for select detailed occupations: those that are growing the fastest, adding the most new jobs, declining most rapidly, or losing the most jobs. The fifth section discusses the concept of replacement needs--that is, the job openings that arise when workers leave an occupation permanently rather than those that arise from occupational growth. Finally, the last section describes the projections within the context of the new BLS education and training classification system.

Overview of BLS projections

The occupational projections presented in this article are the last step in the employment projections process. The process begins with projecting the population and labor force. From there, changes in the aggregate economy--GDP and its components--are projected. Next, projections are derived for consumers' final demand of products and services from each industry. Then the interplay of goods and services among industries, including intermediate demand, is used to project output by industry. Once industry output is projected, industry employment is calculated by projecting productivity and hours. Finally, projected staffing patterns are developed to distribute the projected industry employment to occupations. The assumptions and results of projections for the population, labor force, GDP, and industry output and employment are covered in more detail in other articles in this issue of the Monthly Labor Review.

The demographics of the U.S. population will have a prime role in shaping the future of the workforce. Between 2010 and 2020, the civilian noninstitutional population ages 16 and older is projected to grow by 25.2 million, or about 1.0 percent per year. However, as the baby-boom generation ages, the population will also shift to older age groups, with those ages 55 and older projected to increase their share of the population from 31.4 percent to 36.6 percent through the projections period. Because older people are less likely to be part of the labor force, the labor force will increase by only 10.5 million, or 0.7 percent per year, over the same decade. …

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