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Economic Growth Slower Than We Want

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Modest economic growth? Get used to it, according to the latest 10-year projection from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

With the annual pace of employment growth much slower in this expansion than it was in previous decades, it is easy to continue to cast blame on the severity of the Great Recession.

The continued elevated percentage of discouraged and underemployed workers is likely still related to the previous recession.

But the slower pace of economic growth going forward also will be driven by such factors as demographics, technology and offshore outsourcing, according to the updated projections from BLS.

Every two years, the bureau updates its employment growth projections. The latest, which was published in mid-December, projects much slower employment growth than in the previous forecast.

From 2012-2022, total job grow was expected to average 1.0 percent per year — equivalent to about 1.6 million jobs per year.

For the 2014-2024 time period, employment growth now is expected to grow at an annual average rate of 0.6 percent,  or a little under 1.0 million jobs per year.

Given this projected slowdown in the labor force growth rate, gross domestic product is expected to increase a modest 2.2 percent per year over the next decade.

For students who were depending on occupation forecasts to help them choose a career that would be in demand when they graduate, the new forecasts show the same broad categories with greatest demand.

However, every one of the 22 major occupation groups has slower job growth expectations compared to the prior projections.

The major occupation groups with the highest projected growth over this period are healthcare support (up 2.1 percent annual average rate from 2014-2024) and healthcare practitioners and technical (up 1.5 percent during the same time period).

These healthcare occupations are projected to create 2.3 million jobs over the next decade or about 1 in 4 new jobs.

Computer and mathematical occupations (up 1.2 percent annual average rate) and personal care and service occupations (also up 1.2 percent annual average rate) had the next-highest growth rates.

The median annual average wages for healthcare practitioners and technical occupations ($61,710) and computer and mathematical occupations ($79,420) were significantly above the average for all occupations ($35,540) in May 2014.

The median annual average wages for healthcare support occupations ($26,440) and personal care and service occupations ($21,260), in contrast, were well below average.

Within these high-growth occupation groups, there are occupations expected to grow at an above-average rate while others are projected to increase at below-average rates.

For example, the occupational therapy and physical therapist assistants and aides and home health aides within the detailed healthcare occupations are expected to outpace the growth rate of all healthcare occupations.

In contrast, growth for pharmacists is expected to have a below-average 0.3 percent annual average rate and pharmacy technician jobs are projected to expand only 0.9 percent annual average rate in the 2014-2024 time period.

Out of the 819 detailed occupations that BLS forecasts, 602 occupations are projected to grow with 217 declining. These forecasts are based on net growth in industries over the next decade and do not account for replacement needs that occur when individuals retire or move into a new occupation.

For that reason, job-seekers using these bureau projections to gauge career prospects need to consider job growth expectations along with replacement needs to get a full picture of expected employment opportunities.

Regional factors, such as population growth and industry mix, also play a large role in job opportunities.

(This column first ran in the Richmond Times Dispatch)

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