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The Workforce of Tomorrow

Employment By Occupation

The economy's occupational and industrial structures form a close relationship. Workers in various occupations provide the skills needed in different industries. Nurses, physicians, orderlies, and medical records technicians are needed in hospitals; cooks, waiters and waitresses, and food preparation workers are needed in restaurants. Consequently, the demand for the occupations concentrated in an industry often rises or falls with the fortunes of that industry. At the same time, it is important to remember that members of the same industry may not share the same concerns. For example, in the health industry, the objectives of the hospital administrator, the doctor, and the licensed practical nurse may differ dramatically.

Changes in technology usually affect how industries use workers. For example, technological advances will continue to reduce the need for typists, directory assistance telephone operators, and bookkeeping, accounting, and auditing clerks. Changes in business practices and operations also can affect occupational staffing and job skills required in the workforce. For example, many companies are eliminating middle managers, thereby tending to put more authority in the hands of nonmanagerial frontline workers.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics analyzes these factors to project employment for more than 500 detailed occupations. These occupations can be grouped in different ways to provide a better understanding of broad occupational employment trends. Two of the grouping methods used are by type of work performed and by education and training usually required.


Employment in professional and related occupations is projected to grow the fastest of the major occupational groups and to add the most jobs between 2004 and 2014. This occupational group, as noted above, is expected to add six million jobs to reach approximately 34.6 million, meaning that one out of five workers (21%) in 2014 will be employed in these occupations. (See Table 5.3.) Professional and related occupations (actuaries, computer programmers, teachers, engineers, lawyers, photographers, drafters, and others) will account for the bulk of all new jobs over the 2004 to 2014 period. This reflects both the group's size and its projected growth among the major occupational groups.

The group with the second fastest projected growth rate (19%) is service occupations (police, firefighters, chefs, nursing aides, flight attendants, child-care workers, barbers, embalmers, and others). This group is expected to account for the second largest numerical increase in jobs (5.3 million), bringing the total employment in these occupations to 32.9 million, or 20% of the overall workforce in 2014. (See Table 5.3.) Construction occupations, with an anticipated increase of 12% (930,900 new jobs), includes carpenters, painters, paper hangers, roofers, plumbers, electricians, glaziers, brick masons, hazardous materials removers, and plasterers, among others. Management occupations, expected to expand by 11.3% (one million new jobs), includes human resource managers, executives, funeral directors, real estate appraisers, industrial production managers, and education administrators, among others.

Table 5.4 presents what are projected to be the ten fastest-growing occupations during the period 2004 to 2014. Five of the ten are at the low end of the educational attainment and earnings spectrum, and only two require a college degree. The different projected growth rates among the major occupational groups will result in changes to the structure of total employment between 2004 and 2014. Service occupations and professional and related occupations are projected to increase their shares of total employment over this ten-year period.

Demand for Information Technology Workers

One of the fastest-growing segments of the economy is the information technology (IT) industry. During the 1990s, when personal computers became ubiquitous in the home and the workplace and the Internet became an important part of many people's lives, there was explosive growth in computer-related jobs. Although this growth had slowed considerably by 2000, the IT industry has remained one of the most rapidly expanding parts of the job market and is expected to continue to grow, on the whole, faster than the average for all industries.

Triggering this growth are significant advances in networking and data communications technology and the increasing need for sophisticated security systems to protect networks and databases from viruses, hackers, and so-called cyber-terrorists. As technology advances, so does the need to apply it in business, to provide computer education and support to workers and clients, to develop and improve software, and to oversee the operations of large networks and databases. The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects employment in professional, scientific, and technical services to grow by 28.4%, adding 1.9 million new jobs by 2014 (Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2006–2007 Edition). Within this group, employment in computer systems design and related services will grow by 39.5%. Management, scientific, and technical consulting services will grow by 60.5% as businesses become increasingly dependent on the technology that keeps them operating.

The fastest-growing IT professions require a fairly high level of education and technical skill, as well as practical experience, business acumen, and the ability to keep up with and integrate new technologies into existing business systems. Computer and information systems managers, computer software engineers, systems analysts, database administrators, and computer scientists are expected to be in very high demand. Also in great demand will be desktop publishers and computer support specialists. Those with backgrounds in computer security, networking—including Internet and intranet (internal company networks) applications—data communications, electronic commerce (also known as e-business), and such newer mobile computing technologies as the wire-

less Internet, or WiFi, are expected to have the best job prospects in the decade 2004–14.

Factors that contribute to the slower growth in the twenty-first-century IT industry, as compared to the boom of the 1990s, include the increasing sophistication of software, widespread use of personal computers, and outsourcing of many computing tasks overseas to low-paid workers. Newer software packages are able to do many jobs that were once only possible for human beings to do. In particular, such routine jobs as writing simple computer code or entering data into a database system have been automated using bar-code scanners, voice recognition software, and character recognition readers (machines that are capable of reading printed text or handwriting). Typing jobs that were once given to typists are now being performed on desktop computers by the document authors themselves. In order to cut costs, many companies are sending routine data entry and information processing tasks and even such highly skilled jobs as technology support and routine software engineering and programming to overseas contractors in countries where labor costs are lower than in the United States. Because of these factors, a decline in data entry, information processing, and word processing is expected during the period from 2004 through 2014. Demand for programmers and computer support specialists is expected to slow, and even growth in the market for software engineers—one of the fastest-growing sectors of the IT industry—will be tempered by these trends.

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