Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasts fastest-growing jobs

Plotting a new career move? New forecasts from the Bureau of Labor Statistics may provide clues about the fastest-growing fields this decade.


Assuming a full-employment economy with an unemployment rate of 5.2 percent by 2020, the BLS expects total U.S. employment to rise 14.3 percent over the current decade, resulting in 20.5 million new jobs. The projections are based on expected labor force participation, the assumed unemployment rate and estimated housing starts, among other factors.

Much of that growth-more than 2 million positions-will come from low-paid openings for home health aides (mean annual wages of $21,760) personal care aides-people who look after the elderly and infirm but do not administer medications (mean annual wages of $20,420) and retail salespeople (mean annual wages $25,000).

Registered nursing, the occupation expected to add the most jobs -712,000- offers a bright spot, with mean annual wages of $67,720 in 2010.

Among the fastest-growing occupations- those adding jobs quickly though not necessarily in large numbers overall- are biomedical engineers (mean annual wages: $84,780), veterinary technicians (mean annual wages: $31,030), event planners (mean annual wages: $48,780), and physical therapy assistants (mean annual wages: $49,810), and occupational therapy assistants (mean annual wages: $51,300).

Some construction jobs such as glazing, brickwork and carpentry-for which mean annual wages range between $27,000- $50,000-will also grow fast over the coming decade, but the agency said employment in the industry will not return to pre-recession levels by 2020.

“What looks like strong growth in that sector is mainly just regaining jobs that were lost in the recession,” said Dixie Sommers, an assistant commissioner at the BLS. “It doesn’t mean people should think they can easily find a job. Someone coming into the field is going to be competing with a lot of experienced workers who are also looking for work.”

Despite election-year speeches from Republican primary candidates and President Barack Obama about jump-starting a renaissance in American manufacturing, the BLS forecasts that 11 industries in that sector will experience among the largest job declines over the next ten years. Hardest hit will be apparel knitting mills and computer and electronics factories.

The manufacturing projections are not surprising, says Steve Davis, an economist at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. Manufacturing as a share of private-sector employment has been declining for decades, he said, because of outsourcing and, more importantly, “the rapid pace of labor-saving technological progress,” which is affecting employment in the sector even in developing countries.

He added that the BLS’s assumption of a 5.2 percent unemployment rate by 2020 was somewhat optimistic. A downturn like the Great Recession, he said, “is not something you recover from quickly.” A higher unemployment assumption would likely result in lower job-creation projections.

Author: Lauren Weber, wsj.com