WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. employment is projected to increase by 6 million jobs this decade, with the annual growth rate sharply slower than during the economy’s recovery from the Great Recession, according to a government report on Tuesday.
The projections published by the Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) do not include the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and response efforts, and are developed using models based on historical data.
The coronavirus crisis delivered the biggest economic shock since the Great Depression, with 22 million jobs lost. Only 9.3 million jobs had been recovered by July.
“The 2019-29 projections were finalized in the spring of 2020 when there was still significant uncertainty about the duration and impacts of the pandemic,” the BLS said.
Employment is projected to increase to 168.8 million over the 2019-29 decade from 162.8 million over the prior period. That reflects an annual growth rate of 0.4%, significantly slower than the 2009-19 pace of 1.3%, which was bolstered by recovery from the 2007-09 recession.
The healthcare and social assistance industry is projected to add the most new jobs, and six of the 10 fastest-growing occupations are related to healthcare, the BLS said.
The long-term projections are intended to capture structural changes in the economy, not cyclical fluctuations. The projected pedestrian employment growth pace reinforces economists’ belief that it could take years for the labor market to recoup the jobs lost during the pandemic.
A moderate pace of economic growth is also projected. Inflation-adjusted gross domestic product is forecast rising 1.8% annually from 2019 to 2029, down from 2.3% in the prior decade.
The labor force is expected to increase by 8.0 million to 171.5 million in 2029. The labor force participation rate, the proportion of working-age Americans who have a job or are looking for one, is forecast falling to 61.2% in 2029 from 63.1% in 2019.
“The decline in labor force participation is due to the aging of the baby-boom generation, a continuation of the declining trend in men’s participation, and a slight decline in women’s participation,” the BLS said. “By 2029, all baby boomers will be at least 65 years old.”
Worker productivity is seen increasing 1.8% from 1.1% during the 2009-19 decade.