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February 2004, Vol. 127, No. 2
Labor force projections to 2012: the graying of the U.S. workforce
This article examines projected trends in the labor force over the 2002-12 period. By 2012, the number of persons working or looking for work is expected to reach 162.3 million. The labor force is anticipated to exhibit steady growth and increase by 17.4 million, or 12 percent, over the 2002 figure. The growth in the labor force during 2002-12 is projected to be larger than in the previous 10-year period, 1992-2002, when the labor force grew by 14.4 million, or 11.3 percent.
The annual rate of growth in the women’s labor force is expected to remain the same as it was during the 1992–2002 period, namely, 1.3 percent, but it will still increase at a faster rate than that of men. (See table 1.) The men’s labor force is expected to grow at an annual rate of 1.0 percent, more rapidly than the growth rate in the 1992–2002 period, even though the aggregate labor force participation rate for men is projected to continue to decline. Women’s share of the labor force is expected to increase from 46.5 percent in 2002 to 47.5 percent in 2012. By contrast, men’s share is projected to decline from 53.5 percent in 2002 to 52.5 percent in 2012.
The projected labor force growth will be affected by the aging of the baby-boom generation—persons born between 1946 and 1964. In 2012, the baby-boom cohort will be 48 to 66 years. This age group is expected to show significant growth over the 2002–12 period. The labor force will continue to age, with the annual growth rate of the 55-and-older group projected to be 4.1 percent, nearly 4 times the rate of growth of the overall labor force. It is anticipated that, in 2012, youths will constitute 15 percent of the labor force, and prime-age workers—those between the ages of 25 and 54—will make up about 66 percent of the labor force. The share of the 55-and-older age group will increase from 14.3 percent to 19.1 percent of the labor force.
This excerpt is from an article published in the February 2004 issue of the Monthly Labor Review. The full text of the article is available in Adobe Acrobat's Portable Document Format (PDF). See How to view a PDF file for more information.
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