Who Will Work, and How
With an economy on the mend and a job market in flux, some of the key occupations for this decade are yet to be imagined and created. That said, recent workforce projections indicate who may be filling most jobs this decade.
Older. A 2009 study by the Pew Research Center (http://pewsocialtrends.org)—based on analysis of U.S. Census Bureau and U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data and a phone survey by the independent research group—underscores what most already understand as a key employment trend: a growing graying workforce of aging baby boomers who are finding it hard to retire for either personal or financial reasons. According to the survey, the number of older workers (ages 55 and older) is expected to increase by 11.9 million during the next several years, comprising nearly one in four workers by 2016.
Put in context, those 11.9 million older employees are the lion's share of an anticipated total increase of 12.8 million new workers into the U.S. labor pool between 2006 to 2016. The remaining roughly one million jobs are expected to be filled with the addition of 2.5 million workers aged 25 to 54 and a net loss of 1.5 million among those aged 16 to 24.
Projections released in December 2009 by BLS covering a slightly different time period (2008 to 2018) predict an overall 10.1 percent employment increase, totaling 15.3 million new jobs. These projections likewise depict an aging workforce that is also more ethnically diverse.
More diverse. According to BLS, while Caucasians will remain the largest racial group in the U.S. labor force in 2018, their numbers will increase by only 5.5 percent between 2008 and 2018, compared to 33.1 percent growth among Hispanics, 29.8 percent growth among Asians, and 14.1 percent growth among blacks.
Better educated. Openings due to replacement needs (retirements, etc.) will account for twice as many job openings as those stemming from economic growth. One third of total jobs and nearly half of all new jobs from 2008 to 2018 are likely to require a postsecondary degree.
According to Pew's survey and analysis, those aged 16 to 24 who were active in the labor market decreased from 66 percent in 2000 to 57 percent in 2009. That downward trend may not be all bad news for this group. While 4 in 10 of young people surveyed said they had looked for a job but could not find work, nearly half of respondents in this age group said they weren't working by choice so they could focus instead on school or job training. According to the survey's authors, that may signal another trend: a view among Americans that they will need a college education to get ahead in life.
Mobile. Employee preferences for how and where they work may also begin to shape employment trends in new ways in the coming decade. Results of a study released last summer from WorldatWork (www.worldatwork.org) and the Work Design Collaborative reveal that the number of workers in the United States who take advantage of flexible scheduling such as teleworking is already greater than expected and on the rise. The study, "Flexible Work Arrangements for Nonexempt Employees" (http://www.workingfromanywhere.org), indicates more companies are extending flexible work privileges to even nonexempt employees despite concerns about work hour and safety requirements.
Forty-five percent of responding employers reported allowing nonexempt workers to take part in flexible work programs. Researchers had anticipated this might be true for about 15 percent of employers. Manufacturing, education, and business services were the three biggest sectors allowing nonexempt employees to telework. While this may spell positive news for employees, the survey also found there is plenty of work for employers to better define and implement these programs. Of those employers that allow flexible work options, 44 percent reported not having a formal selection process in place to determine eligibility; 39 percent don't use formal employer-employee contracts detailing these arrangements; and 44 percent don't actively evaluate the effectiveness of their technology to support teleworking options. The study concludes that policy development for flexible work programs will become a critical HR management issue in the coming years.Attention to policy development may be time well spent. Telework and other flexible work options are not only appealing to more employees, but are also seen as beneficial by more employers within the context of the new work environment taking shape in the aftermath of the recession. Any means by which employers can boost employee productivity and morale is a plus in their attempts to retain key talent.