November 11, 2001

New data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) shows that at least 58 million job openings will be available by 2010, but the labor force may fall more than 4.8 million workers short of meeting demand, according to an analysis by the Employment Policy Foundation (EPF). BLS estimates that 22 million new jobs will be created in the next nine years and that 36 million more openings may result from retirements and others who drop out of the labor force.

The BLS report projected 167 million jobs available in the United States, a 15 percent increase over the number of positions held at any time during 2000. Nearly all of the new job growth (20.5 million of the 22 million) will occur in the service sector, while jobs in the manufacturing sector will grow at only 0.3 percent annually. During the next decade, the greatest growth - 6.9 million jobs - will occur in professional specialty occupations.

"The BLS data is significant when you factor in new job growth plus jobs left open by retiring workers," said EPF President Ed Potter. "There could be at least 12 million professional specialty jobs and more than five million managerial openings that will need to be filled in the next decade. In just these two leading occupational groups, 17 million positions will need to be filled by college or vocational program graduates. However, we may be short as many as 3.5 million workers who will require post secondary education and skills."

Historically, BLS growth projections have been conservative, Potter warned. EPF found that the 1989 BLS labor forecast of total employment for 2000 was 7 percent too low. "While these numbers might be difficult to comprehend during the current recession, we must begin preparing our workforce for the future education and skills demands that will be required."

In a survey of employers, the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) found that 80 percent of respondents believed a severe shortage of qualified job candidates now exists, despite the economic downturn. Most companies (60 percent) responded that the lack of available skilled workers is directly impacting the ability to produce goods and services necessary to meet market demand.

For more information on the current labor and skills shortage, see EPF's recent research pieces at
http://www.epf.org/research/newsletters/2001/et20011127.pdf and http://www.epf.org/research/newsletters/2001/ef20011025.pdf.

The BLS report can be found at http://www.bls.gov/news.release/ecopro.nr0.htm

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