01 May. 2012 | Comments (4)

Once every two years, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) releases its employment outlook. This report is perhaps the most detailed and most cited effort to provide a long-term forecast of the U.S. labor market. Recently, the BLS released its employment outlook for the 2010 to 2020 period. Below, we describe the main findings, and focus, in particular, on the results by occupation.

Over that period, the BLS expects the workforce to increase at a rate of 0.7 percent per year.  It also predicts a full employment economy by 2020, adding 20.5 million jobs and lowering unemployment to 5.2 percent.  GDP growth is expected to be at 3 percent on average.  Out of its 749 occupation categories, 657 are projected to grow. In particular, the BLS predicts how the U.S. economy will return to full employment following the 2007 to 2009 recession through employment growth within various occupations.


Table 1  - fifty of the fastest growing occupations (2010-2020)


The table above showcases fifty of the fastest growing occupations, according to the BLS.  The top two occupations, personal care aides and home health aides, reflect the impact of the aging U.S. population on demand jobs.  By 2020, 36.6 percent of the population will be over the age of 55, an increase of 5.2 percent.  Two out of every five occupations on this list also demonstrate that Americans are increasing spending on health and wellness over the decade. 

Another industry expected to grow dramatically in terms of occupations is construction. One in five of the fastest growing occupations are related to construction, which is likely to be one of the fastest growing industries according to BLS, as a result of its current depressed level.  The BLS notes, however, that even this increase is not likely to result in pre-recessionary levels of employment in the construction industry.  

The growth in jobs related to additional technology demands demonstrates a third trend in the BLS’s projections, constituting one in ten of the occupations on the list.  Similarly, the rate of increase in market research analysts, personal financial advisors, and financial analysts indicate the growing need for professionals who can use data to aid in decision making processes.  

Many of the occupations on this list require lower levels of education.  The BLS predicts that 62.6 percent of new jobs, and 69.2 percent of job openings due to growth and replacement, will occur in occupations where only lower levels of education are necessary.  These jobs often require short to moderate on-the-job training; occupations which require only high school diplomas, and that typically include apprenticeships, are expected to grow by 22.5 percent – twice as fast as the average growth rate for this group of occupations. At the same time, BLS projections suggest that jobs requiring a Masters level degree are projected to grow by 21.7 percent, the fastest among all education levels.

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  • About the Author: Gad Levanon, Ph.D.

    Gad Levanon, Ph.D.

    Gad Levanon serves as chief economist, North America at The Conference Board. He oversees the labor market program, the U.S forecasting program, and the Help Wanted OnLine© program. Le…

    Full Bio | More from Gad Levanon, Ph.D.

  • About the Author: Jessica Forde

    Jessica Forde

    Jessica Forde is a research analyst focusing on macroeconomic and labor market issues at The Conference Board.  Previously, she worked at MetLife as a Marketing Research Analyst studying the inst…

    Full Bio | More from Jessica Forde


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  1. David Hsiao 0 people like this 01 May. 2012 01:22 PM

    Clearly, the aging U.S. population is driving much of the growth in the domestic personal and health care professions. I wonder how much weight the BLS gives the increasing overseas demand for skilled labor to address increasing international trade and multinational company demands. In the tech sector, for instance, the US is not producing enough engineering majors to satisfy demand, so many multinationals are now going overseas for these talents. Supply chains, like Apple's use of Foxconn, increasingly depend on far flung global enterprises, increasing the demand for logisticians and computer systems analysts (both also on the list). Do you have any insight into how much international demand is factored into this analysis?

  2. Gad Levanon 0 people like this 02 May. 2012 01:09 PM

    Thank you David for your comment and question. The BLS uses a very detailed and multi-staged method that does take into account the international environment, although maybe not to the degree you are hoping for. The attached link provides a good explanation of their method starting on page 9:

  3. Burt Furuta 0 people like this 02 May. 2012 04:08 PM

    Thanks. Interesting data.
    I am struck by the low median annual wage in some of the occupations, notably, the two fastest growing ones.
    -Are you aware of any reasonable estimate of what a living wage is?
    -The cost of living varies greatly from one area of the country to another. I wonder to what extent wages for an occupation remain in a tight range rather than vary with the cost of living.

  4. Gad Levanon 0 people like this 02 May. 2012 06:06 PM

    The link below will take you to a paper that has all you need to know about the living wage concept.
    In general, the profitability of the employer and the tightness of the labor market have a larger impact on wages than changes in the cost of living. But it matters as well.