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Highlights from the New Occupation Employment Projections

Every two years, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) updates their employment growth projections for both occupations and industries. We looked at highlights of the industry changes last month. Here we look at highlights and implications of the occupation forecasts.

Every one of the major occupation groups has slower job growth forecast compared to the previous. Healthcare occupations are still expected to grow the fastest—this includes healthcare support (+2.1% average annualized rate, 2014-2024) and healthcare practitioners and technical occupations (+1.5% AAR). The computer and mathematical group as well as personal care and service occupations have the next-highest growth projections at 1.2% per year. Construction and extraction occupations are still expected to see above-average job growth (+1.0% AAR), though this is twice as slow compared to the prior forecast. Two groups are expected to see declines from 2014-2024: production and farming, fishing, and forestry occupations.

BLS Employment Projections by Occupation Group

Source: Employment Projections program, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Among the healthcare occupations, occupational therapy and physical therapist assistants and aides are expected to continue to be among the fastest growing (+3.4% AAR 2014-2024). Home health aides are also expected to see employment expand quickly (+3.3% AAR 2014-2024), though a bit slower than in the prior estimates (+4.0% AAR 2012-2022). Among notable changes, job growth expectations for pharmacy occupations have been lowered. Growth for pharmacists is now expected to be a below-average 0.3% AAR in 2014-2024 compared to prior expectations of 1.4% AAR growth in 2012-2022. Pharmacy technician jobs are projected to expand 0.9% AAR in 2014-2024 compared to 1.8% AAR expectations in 2012-2022. Registered nurses (RNs) and licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses (LPNs) are both projected to see 1.5% AAR growth 2014-2024—this represents just a slight slowing for RNs (+1.8% AAR in 2012-2022), but more of a lowered expectation for LPNs (+2.2% AAR in 2012-2022).

Within the computer occupation group, employment growth for web developers is projected to be the fastest (+2.4% AAR 2014-2024) in addition to being upgraded from prior expectations (+1.9% AAR 2012-2022). Information security analyst jobs are still expected to grow briskly (+1.7% AAR 2014-2024) though not quite as hot as previously forecast (+3.2% AAR 2012-2022). Computer programmer jobs were previously expected to grow at a slower-than-average pace (+0.8% AAR 2012-2022), but that occupation is now expected to contract (-0.8% AAR 2014-2024).

While production occupation employment overall is expected to decline, some production occupations are projected to expand. Food processing workers, for example, are expected to see modest growth (+0.3% AAR 2014-2024), the same expectation as in the prior forecast. Woodworkers were expected to expand in the 2012-2022 forecast, but are projected to see a slight annualized 0.1% decline in 2014-2024. Printing workers are expected to see employment declines (-1.5% AAR 2014-2024) at a quicker pace compared to the last projection (-0.5% 2012-2022).

Previously on this site we’ve talked about the hollowing out of the middle class and illustrated what that looked like over the past ten years. With the new BLS projections, we look at the next ten years and see no relief from this trend. The twenty percent of jobs with the highest wages are forecast to expand faster than average (+9.9% over the next ten years) and the twenty percent of jobs with the lowest wages are expected to grow faster than average (+6.8% over the same period). That leaves the middle sixty percent getting pinched—growing at a below-average 5.2%. Bottom line: ten years from now, if these forecasts play out, the middle class will be relatively smaller than it is today.

For job-seekers using the new BLS forecasts to gauge career prospects, it is important to note that job growth expectations should be considered along with replacement needs—openings resulting from retirements and movement between occupations—to get a full picture of expected employment opportunities. Regional factors also play a large role in job opportunities, and regional demand can be gauged with the help of a local labor market tool such as JobsEQ®.

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