Job growth expected to slow sharply over the next decade, Labor Department says

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The pace of job gains over the next decade will slow considerably amid a sharp decline in the active labor force and an aging population, according to Labor Department projections released Tuesday.

From the period of 2020-29, the economy is expected to add a net 6 million new jobs, an annual growth rate of just 0.4%, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates. 

That compares with the 1.3% annual rate during the 2009-19 period, which got a boost from the Great Recession recovery that started in mid-2009 and ended up being the longest expansion in U.S. history before it ended in February of this year.

The slow growth rate also does not include the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic, which cost the economy more than 25 million jobs initially before employees were brought back to work as restrictions eased to combat Covid-19. Some 16.3 million workers remained unemployed as of July, nearly 11 million more than the pre-pandemic level, according to the Labor Department.

The department noted that the virus could cause “new structural changes to the economy” and will be accounted for in future projections.

Outside of the pandemic, job creation is expected to slow amid demographic changes and a sharp increase in productivity brought on in part by technological changes.

Job gains are expected to be concentrated in health care, which occupies five of the top 20 sectors expected to see the fastest growth. The department projects health-care support occupations to add nearly 1.6 million positions through 2029, a 22.6% increase. Food preparation and serving occupations are expected to increase by 1 million, though that could change due to the impact the industry has felt from coronavirus restrictions.

Professional, businesses and scientific service fields also are forecast to gain amid tech advancements.  Community and social service is expected to see a 12.5% increase in jobs, while computer and mathematical occupations are forecast for a 12.1% boost.

Manufacturing faces the toughest prospects, with a projected decline of 448,800 jobs due to “the loss of manufacturing jobs include the adoption of new productivity-enhancing technologies, such as robotics and international competition.”

Under the latest projections, the labor force participation rate is projected to tumble from 63.1% in 2019 to 61.2% in 2029. Outside of the pandemic era, where workers were deliberately taken out of the labor force to slow the virus spread, the last time participation was that low was in late 1975.

At the same time, productivity is forecast to increase from 1.1% in the previous decade to 1.8%, a reflection of “the outlook for business investment and efficiency gains anticipated in the use of labor and capital inputs.”