Forecasting 2020: BLS IDs health care as fastest-growing job sector

RNs expected to experience more job growth than any other occupation

The health care and social assistance sector will gain more than 5.6 million jobs from 2010 to 2020, more than any other U.S. sector, according to the latest Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) employment projections report.

Overall, the U.S. employment market, which lost roughly 7.5 million jobs during the recession, is expected to add approximately 20.5 million jobs through 2020. According to the biannual BLS projections, health care and social assistance will be the fastest-growing sector and account for about 25% of those jobs, Reuters reports.

BLS projected that the top three fastest-growing occupational groups will be:

  • Health care support occupations, which are expected to grow by 34.5%;
  • Personal care and services occupations, which are expected to grow by 26.8%; and
  • Health care practitioners and technical occupations, which are expected to grow by 25.9%.

In addition, BLS determined that nine of the 30 occupations projected to have the most employment growth over the 10-year period are in the health care sector. The largest growth is expected for RNs, with BLS predicting the occupation to add 711,900 jobs by 2020 to reach 3.4 million.

Meanwhile, home health aides are expected to add 706,300 jobs to reach 1.7 million, and physicians and surgeons are expected to add 168,300 jobs to reach 859,300. Other health care and social assistance occupations projected to have the largest growth include personal care aides, nursing aides, medical secretaries, licensed practical nurses, and medical assistants.

Experts predict that health care openings will be broadly distributed geographically. For example, David Card, director of the National Bureau of Economic Research's Labor Studies Program, notes that health care jobs will continue to be available in small, struggling towns where health is "all that's left."

According to Bloomberg, much of health care's employment growth can be attributed to an aging U.S. population. Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development data show that one in four U.S. residents will be 65 or older by 2050 (BLS report, 2/1; Chandra/Kolet, Bloomberg, 2/1; Rampell, Dawson, Reuters, 2/1).

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