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The Workforce of Tomorrow

Labor Force

The civilian labor force comprises individuals aged sixteen and older who are either working or looking for work. They represent the supply of workers available to fill all the jobs that will be created. According to the BLS in Economic and Employment Projections (December 2005), the population and labor force will continue to grow over the 2004 to 2014 period at roughly the same rate as the previous ten-year period. Figure 5.1 compares growth in the labor force with growth in the population of working-age individuals in the United States during the period 1994 through 2014. The labor force is projected to increase by 14.7 million (10%) between 2004 and 2014, reaching 162.1 million workers in 2014. (See Table 5.1.) The labor force is projected to grow slightly faster than the population, because a larger proportion of the population will be working or looking for work. This includes a larger number of women and minority workers.

Older Workers

In 2004 the percent of the labor force made up of those aged sixteen to twenty-four was 15.1%; nearly seven out of ten workers (69.3%) in the labor force at that time were aged twenty-five to fifty-four, and those aged fifty-five and older comprised 15.6% of the labor force. These figures indicated the aging of American workers as the baby boom generation (those born between 1946 and 1964) nears retirement age. An increase of 49.1% of workers aged fifty-five and older is expected between 2004 and 2014. (See Table 5.1.)


According to the BLS in "Labor Force" (Occupational Outlook Quarterly, winter 2005–06), women will continue to compose less than one-half of the labor force between 2004 and 2014, staying at roughly 46.8% of the labor force. The labor force participation rate for women is projected to continue its historic increase, with 11% growth in the decade from 2004 to 2014. Although more women (7.5 million) than men (7.2 million) are expected to join the labor force between 2004 and 2014, men, at 72% participation, will continue to have higher rates of participation in the labor force than women (60%). Figure 5.2 shows the historic shifts in participation rates by gender in the American labor force since the 1950s, when only about one-third of women worked outside the home.

Race and Ethnicity

Due largely to the effects of immigration, participation in the labor force by Hispanics, Asians, and others FIGURE 5.1 Population and labor force, 1994, 2004, and projected 2014 "Population and Labor Force, 1994, 2004, and Projected 2014," in "Labor Force," in Occupational Outlook Quarterly, Winter 2005–06, http://www.bls.gov/opub/ooq/2005/winter/art05.pdf (accessed February 7, 2006)will increase much faster than that of whites and African-Americans during the years 2004 through 2014, according to the BLS in Occupational Outlook Quarterly (winter 2005–06). Workers of Hispanic ethnicity are projected to be the fastest-growing labor force group during this period, with 34% growth, followed closely by Asians (32%), and those categorized as "All Other" (30%). (See Figure 5.3 and Figure 5.4.) The group "All Others" includes people who do not identify themselves as white, African-American, or Asian, including Native Americans, Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians, Pacific Islanders, and multiracial individuals. Hispanics, Asians, and others are expected join the workforce at rates three times the projected growth in the labor force overall (10%). Neverthless, whites, who composed 82.1% of the labor force in 2004, will still be the largest group of workers in 2014, though declining slightly to 80.2%.

Additional topics

Jobs and Career OpportunitiesCareers and Occupations: Looking to the FutureThe Workforce of Tomorrow - Labor Force, Economic Growth, Employment By Industry, Employment By Occupation, Education And Projected Job Growth