The job outlook in brief

The job outlook in brief – future demands in industry, government, etc

William M. Austin

The Job Outlook in Brief

The future promises millions of jobs in hundreds of occupations for people planning their careers today. Engineers who design new electronic equipment, technicians who work with it, registered nurses and other health workers who care for the ill or injured, retail sales workers who sell everything from high fashion furs to fastfood hamburgers, and truckdrivers, teachers, and technologists will all be needed.

The number and kinds of workers needed in different occupations will depend on the interplay of demographic, economic, social, and technological factors. The Bureau of Labor Statistics analyzes changes in these factors in order to develop projections of future demand in hundreds of industries and occupations. This article, which is revised every 2 years in order to reflect the Bureau’s latest projections, summarizes the employment outlook in 200 or so occupations for which detailed information is developed.

The article presents the following information:

The number of jobs held by workers in 1984.

the change in employment projected to occur between 1984 and 1995.

and, when possible, the prospects for employment in an occupation.

Before turning to the long table on pages 10 to 29 to find the occupations that interest you, look over the next few pages. They discuss factors that affect employment in an occupation–such as the demand for goods and services–describe the assumptions used in making the projections, give an overview of the employment outlook for 16 occupational groups, and describe the content and organization of the “Brief.’

The Why of Employment Change

The number of workers employed in any occupation depends in part on the demand for the goods or services provided by those workers. Over the last 10 years, for example, increased use of computers by businesses, schools, scientific organizations, and government agencies contributed to large increases in the number of systems analysts, programmers, and computer operators. Even if the demand for goods and services provided by a group of workers rises, employment may not increase or may increase more slowly than demand because of changes in the ways goods are produced and services are provided. In fact, some changes in technology and business practices cause employment to decline. During the 1970’s, improvements in methods of sorting mail, for example, resulted in a drop in the number of postal clerks despite the rapidly growing volume of mail.

Using information on the demand for goods and services, advances in technology, changes in business practices, and the occupational composition of industries, economists at BLS have developed projections of the number of jobs that will be needed in 1995 by occupation. To make these projections, some assumptions about the future had to be made. By varying assumptions about growth of the labor force, output, productivity, inflation, and unemployment, the Bureau has developed three different pictures of the economy in 1995. Referred to as the low-, moderate-, and high-growth scenarios, each provides a different 1995 employment estimate for most occupations.

Information about future employment growth is clouded by uncertainty. These scenarios represent only three of many possible courses for the economy. Different assumptions would lead to different projections. For this reason, the scenarios should not be viewed as the bounds of employment growth; rather, they illustrate what might happen under different economic conditions. For example, unforeseen changes in technology or in spending patterns for defense or health care could radically alter the projections for individual occupations.

For ease of presentation, all data in the “Brief’ come from the moderate-growth projections. This scenario is characterized by steady economic growth through the mid-1990’s. More information about the assumptions underlying the projections and the methods used to develop the projections–along with some of the actual projections–is presented in “New Projections to 1995′ which appears elsewhere in this issue. A series of articles in the November 1985 issue of the Monthly Labor Review presents even greater detail on these subjects.

Employment Through 1995

Through the mid-1990’s, employment is expected to increase in almost all occupations. Between 1984 and 1995, total employment is expected to rise from 106.8 million to 122.8 million or about 15 percent; this is the rate of growth against which occupations are compared throughout this article. The following examination of 16 broad groups of occupations gives an overview of employment opportunities through the mid-1990’s. The groups are based on the Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) system. The half dozen phrases used to describe employment growth are explained in the box, “Key Words in the Brief.’ Refer to the table on pages 10 to 29 for the outlook in a particular occupation, which may differ from the outlook for the group as a whole.

Executive, administrative, and managerial occupations. Workers in these occupations direct and control the activities of businesses, government agencies, and other organizations or provide technical support to workers who do. Overall employment is expected to increase faster than the average for all occupations. Although managers and administrators are employed throughout the economy, differences in industry expansion will result in different employment growth among industries. Employment of managers in the health industry, for example, is expected to increase much faster than the average due to the growth of the industry and the emergence of new types of health service organizations, such as group medical practices and surgical centers. Employment growth also should be faster than average in data processing services, securities firms, automotive repairs, and social services. In contrast, managerial employment in government and educational services is likely to grow only as fast as, or more slowly than, average.

Due to the increasing number of people seeking managerial and administrative jobs and the increasing technical requirements in many of these occupations, experience, specialized training, or postbaccalaureate study will be needed for many managerial jobs. Familiarity with computers will also be helpful as managers and administrators increasingly rely on computerized information systems to direct their organizations.

Engineers, scientists, and related occupations. Workers in these occupations design buildings, machinery, products, and systems and conduct scientific research. Employment is expected to increase much faster than the average; in fact, actuary, computer systems analyst, and electrical and electronics engineer are among the fastest growing occupations in the economy.

Increased military spending, growing demand for computers and other electronic equipment, expansion and automation of industrial production, and development of energy sources are some of the factors expected to lead to higher employment in engineering occupations. The growing application of computers in business and research will contribute to increased employment of computer systems analysts. Research to expand basic knowledge, develop new technologies and products, and protect the environment is expected to lead to higher employment in many scientific and engineering occupations. However, if the rate of economic growth and actual research and development levels differ from those assumed, the job outlook in many of these occupations would be altered. Competition in some smaller occupations that are dependent on government funding, such as physicist and astronomer, will continue to be keen.

Social science, social service, and related occupations. In these occupations, workers provide direct social services and conduct applied research into the behavior of individuals, groups, and society at large. Although overall employment is expected to grow faster than the average, competition for jobs is anticipated due to the large numbers of people qualified for and interested in this type of work. Competition will be especially keen for academic positions. Generally, prospects will be better for social scientists with advanced degrees who seek work in applied fields and for lawyers starting practices in small towns and rural areas.

Competition also is likely for jobs as social and recreation workers in public and voluntary agencies as well as for salaried positions for lawyers due to the number of people likely to pursue careers in those fields. Prospects for religious workers will vary by denomination.

Teachers, librarians, and counselors. Workers in these occupations help people learn, acquire information, or gain insight into themselves. Because of anticipated enrollment declines and an abundance of qualified jobseekers, competition is expected for jobs in college and university teaching, librarianship, and counseling. Staff cutbacks in school systems and social service agencies will intensify competition for jobs.

Job prospects for elementary school teachers are expected to be more favorable than in recent years because school enrollments have begun to increase again after declining for many years. Through 1990, competition is expected for jobs in secondary schools. After 1990, job prospects in secondary teaching may improve as enrollments in these schools begin to increase. Teachers and librarians in scientific and technical fields generally will face better job prospects throughout the next decade.

Health-related occupations. This group includes health diagnosing and treating practitioners; registered nurses, pharmacists, dietitians, therapists, and physician assistants; health technologists and technicians; and health service workers. Workers in these occupations care for the sick, help the disabled, and advise individuals and communities on ways of maintaining and improving their health.

Employment in most of these occupations is expected to grow faster than the average as population growth–especially the growth in the number of older people–increases the demand for health care. The occupation of registered nurse, because of its size and anticipated rapid growth, will be among those providing the most new jobs through the mid-1990’s. Opportunities for nursing aides and orderlies and licensed practical nurses will be available in nursing homes and home-health agencies, as long-term health care becomes a major concern of the aging population. Despite the anticipated growth in the health industry, unprecedented competition is expected for physicians, dentists, chiropractors, and veterinarians seeking to establish practices due to the large number of newly trained practitioners entering those fields each year.

The health industry is undergoing a radical transformation, making it difficult to project employment with much certainty. New approaches to paying for care, fewer diagnostic tests and procedures per episode of illness, fewer hospital admissions, and far greater use of outpatient and home care are among the trends that will shape the industry in the years ahead. Further changes in organization and financing might well produce rates of employment growth different from those currently anticipated.

Writers, artists, and entertainers. This group includes reporters, writers, designers, public relations specialists, and performing artists. Employment in these occupations is expected to increase faster than the average for all occupations due to the continued importance of advertising, public relations, print and broadcast communications, and entertainment.

Stiff competition for jobs in these occupations is likely, due to the large numbers of people they attract; talent, personal drive, and luck will continue to play an important role in professional success. Within individual occupations, some areas will offer better job prospects. For example, the best prospects for writers and editors will be in technical and business writing.

Technologist and technicians. Workers in this group operate and program technical equipment and assist engineers, scientists, and other professional workers. The continued growth in the importance of technology to national defense, office work, manufacturing, and other activities is expected to cause much faster than average employment growth for these occupations. Legal assistant, computer programmer, and electrical and electronics technician are among the fastest growing occupations in the economy.

Employment growth in some occupations will be limited by changes in technology. For example, employment of drafters is not expected to increase as fast as the demand for drafting services due to the increased use of computer-aided design equipment. Similarly, little or no change in employment of air traffic controllers is expected due to the automation of air traffic control equipment.

Marketing and sales occupations. Employment of sales workers is expected to increase faster than the average. More travel agents and securities and financial services sales workers will be needed as the demand for travel and financial services rises with disposable income. Employment of cashiers will continue to grow faster than the average because of the continued popularity of self-service in retail stores.

A large number of part-time and full-time job openings are expected for cashiers and retail trade sales workers due to their number, high turnover, and employment growth. Higher paying sales occupations, such as insurance and financial services agent, tend to be more competitive than retail sales occupations. Well-trained and ambitious people who enjoy selling will have the best chance for success.

Administrative support occupations, including clerical. Workers in this group prepare and record memos, letters, and reports, collect accounts, gather and distribute information, operate office machines, and handle other administrative tasks in businesses, government agencies, and other organizations. Employment in these occupations is expected to grow more slowly than the average. However, some administrative support occupations–such as computer and peripheral equipment operator–will grow much faster than the average due to the increased use of computer systems.

The increased use of office automation systems, on the other hand, will limit employment growth in some administrative support occupations. For example, little change is expected in the employment of typists because of the increased use of word processing systems. Changes in organizational practices will also affect employment growth for some of the occupations in this group. Despite a growing volume of mail, little change is expected in the employment of mail carriers because of improved routing programs and more centralized mail delivery.

Several occupations in this group will have many full- and part-time job openings due to their large size and high turnover. These include bank tellers, bookkeepers and accounting clerks, secretaries, shipping and receiving clerks, and typists.

Service occupations. This group includes a wide range of workers in protective, food and beverage preparation, cleaning, and personal services. Overall employment is expected to increase as fast as the average. Among the protective service occupations, guards are expected to increase faster than the average because of growing concern over crime and vandalism. As the number of prisoners increases, more correction officers will also be needed. However, the anticipated slow growth of local government spending is expected to result in only average employment growth for police officers and firefighters.

Rising incomes, increased leisure, and the growing number of men and women who combine family responsibilities and a job are expected to contribute to faster than average employment growth among food and beverage preparation service occupations. Due to the large size, high turnover, and growth of many food service occupations–such as bartender and waiter and waitress–both full- and part-time job openings will be plentiful.

Agricultural and forestry occupations. Workers in these occupations produce goods that meet the country’s needs for food, clothing, and housing. Although demand for food, fiber, and wood is expected to increase as the world’s population grows, the development and use of more productive farming and forestry methods are expected to result in declining employment in many agricultural and forestry occupations.

Mechanics and repairers. Workers in this group adjust, maintain, and repair automobiles, industrial equipment, computers, and many other types of machinery. Employment in these occupations is expected to grow about as fast as the average due to the continued importance of machines in industries and homes. In some, employment will increase faster than the average. The increased use of computers and advanced office machinery, for example, will make computer service technician and office machine servicer who of the fastest growing occupations. For others–such as communications equipment mechanic–improvements in machinery will lower maintenance requirements and limit employment growth.

Construction occupations. Workers in this group contruct, alter, and maintain buildings and other structures. Employment is expected to grow as fast as the average. Increases in the population and the number of households and a rise in spending for new industrial plants are expected to lead to more new construction. Alteration and modernization of existing structures, as well as the need for maintenance and repair on highway systems, dams, and bridges will also contribute to increased construction activity.

Continued technological developments in construction methods, equipment, and materials will limit employment growth by raising the productivity of a workers. One important development, for example, is continued growth in the use of prefabricated materials. The use of these materials decreases the number of workers needed at the construction site.

Because the construction industry is sensitive to changes in the Nation’s economy, employment in construction occupations fluctuates from year to year. Construction workers experience periods of unemployment during downturns in construction activity.

Production occupations. These workers perform tasks involved in the production of goods. They set up, adjust, operate, and tend machinery and equipment and use handtools and hand-held power tools to fabricate and assemble products.

Slower than average employment growth is expected. Changes in production techniques and the increased use of automated machinery, such as industrial robots, will prevent employment in many occupations from rising as rapidly as the output of goods.

Many production occupations are sensitive to competition from imports and fluctuations in the business cycle. When factory orders decline, workers may face shortened workweeks, layoffs, and plant closings.

Transportation occupations. Workers in this group operate the equipment used to move people and materials. Rising levels of economic activity will increase and need for transport services. This increase in demand is expected to result in average employment growth for truckdrivers, busdrivers, and taxi drivers. Increased use of automated material handling systems, however, is expected to result in a decline in employment for industrial truck operators.

Handlers, equipment cleaners, helpers, and laborers. Workers in these occupations assist skilled workers and perform routine tasks required to complete a project. Although employment is projected to grow more slowly than the average, jobs are expected to be plentiful due to the high turnover rate in many of these occupations. However, economic downturns can substantially lower the number of openings. This is particularly true for construction laborers and other workers in industries that are sensitive to changes in the Nation’s economy.

Information in the “Brief’

The “Brief’ contains five columns of information. The first gives the occupation’s title; the second, the estimated employment in 1984. The third and fourth contain the percent and absolute change in employment projected between 1984 and 1995 according to the moderate-growth scenario. The fifth, “Employment prospects,’ summarizes job prospects for the occupation. As mentioned earlier, the growth of individual occupations is compared to the national average by using half a dozen phrases. These phrases are explained in the box, “Key Words in the Brief.’

The prospects for getting a job depend not only on the number of openings but also on the number of people looking for that kind of job. The words and phrases used in “Employment prospects’ to describe the amount of competition that jobseekers are likely to encounter are also defined in the box, “Key Words in the Brief.’ Assessing the degree of competition in occupations is difficult. For occupations with lengthy training and strict entry requirements, it can be done with some accuracy. But, for most occupations, training requirements are short, and entry is possible through several routes. In such cases, it is difficult to measure the potential supply of workers and it is not meaningful to talk about shortages and surpluses.

Like the Occupational Outlook Handbook on which it is based, the “Brief’ is arranged in the following clusters of related jobs:

Executive, administrative, and managerial;

engineers, surveyors, and architects;

natural scientists and mathematicians;

social scientists, social workers, religious workers, and lawyers;

teachers, counselors, librarians, and archivists;

health diagnosing and treating practitioners;

registered nurses, pharmacists, dietitians, therapists, and physician assistants;

health technologists and technicians:

writers, artists, and entertainers;

technologists and technicians, except health;

marketing and sales;

administrative support, including clerical;


agriculture, forestry, and fishing;

mechanics and repairers;

construction and extractive;


transportation and material moving; and

handlers, equipment cleaners, helpers, and laborers.

Beyond the “Brief’

“The Job Outlook in Brief’ should only be a starting point for your exploration of careers. Besides the information in the “Brief,’ you may want similar information about other occupations as well as information not covered here at all. The “Brief’ contains information for only 200 or so occupations.

You can obtain information on current and projected employment estimates for many more occupations–about 500 in all–in the 1986 edition of Occupational Projections and Training Data, a companion to the Handbook.

Occupational Projections and Training Data also has information on replacement needs, job openings that arise when workers leave the labor force or change occupations. These openings are actually the source of most employment opportunities. Because of replacement needs, large, slow-growing occupations actually have many job opportunities.

Additional information on job growth is also available from State public employment service centers. The outlook for any occupation may vary considerably among local job markets. For example, sections of the country that have slow population growth will usually have less need for elementary school teachers than regions that have high growth. State offices, which are listed in the State government section of local telephone directories, may provide information on these local conditions.

Finally, the “Brief’ provides outlook information in a format that allows you to compare job prospects in different fields easily; but employment prospects should never be the sole reason for choosing a career. Matching your goals and abilities to the work done on the job and the education required is an important part of the selection process. Where you want to live and how much money you want to earn also are important. The 1986-87 Occupational Outlook Handbook contains information on these and other subjects for all the occupations in the “Brief.’ You can purchase a copy from either the BLS Publications Sales Center, P.O. Box 2145, Chicago, Ill. 60690 or the U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402 for $20. Copies that you can use are usually available in libraries and the offices of school guidance counselors and employment counselors.

Table: Key Words in the “Brief’

COPYRIGHT 1986 U.S. Government Printing Office

COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group