NEW YORK (CNN/Money) – Despite plenty of signs of recovery in the U.S. economy over the past two years, the job market has remained a sore spot given its anemic growth and the trend in outsourcing jobs abroad.
There are some, like Federal Chairman Alan Greenspan, who anticipate an upturn in the job market before long. But for workers, the concern is not just the immediate term, but the longer term prospects for the industries in which they work.
Judging from the latest 10-year jobs forecast published this week by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, service industries have the brightest future, although it can't be said that many of the positions with the greatest prospects are high-paying.
Using economic, census and labor data, the BLS projects that between 2002 and 2012 employment growth will be greatest in the service sector, particularly in education and health services as well as professional and business services.
Overall, the BLS projects the economy will add another 21.3 million jobs by 2012, a 15 percent increase.
Job growth in the education, health, professional and business service industries, meanwhile, is expected to exceed 30 percent. Other service industries projected to have a higher than average job growth include the information, transportation and warehousing, and leisure and hospitality industries.
By contrast, the only goods-producing sector expected to experience jobs growth between 2002 and 2012 is construction, with a projected growth rate of 15.1 percent.
Manufacturing jobs overall are expected to decline by 1 percent. But that's a far slower rate of decline than between 1992 and 2002, when the number of jobs fell 8.9 percent. The manufacturing areas expected to be hardest hit are apparel manufacturing, textile mills and computer and electronic product manufacturing.
The decline in agriculture jobs, meanwhile, is expected to accelerate slightly, falling 15.1 percent compared with 14.9 percent between 1992 and 2002.
Most fruitful occupations
The BLS predicts certain occupations will experience the "largest job growth," meaning they are expected to add the greatest number of actual jobs over the 2002 to 2012 period.
The top 10 occupations with the largest expected employment growth include registered nurses, for which 623,000 new jobs are expected; postsecondary teachers, whose ranks are expected to grow by 603,000 jobs; and retail salespersons, for whom the BLS projects 596,000 more jobs will exist by 2012.
But the BLS also characterizes certain occupations as "fastest-growing," meaning the number of jobs in the occupation is expected to grow at a faster rate percentage-wise than other occupations, even if the projected number of new jobs expected in that field is fairly small.
The 10 fastest-growing occupations include medical assistants, jobs for whom are expected to grow by 59 percent, or 215,000 new jobs; network systems and data communications analysts, positions for whom the BLS expects to jump by 57 percent, or 106,000 new jobs; and physician assistants, for whom the BLS projects a 49 percent rise, or 31,000 new jobs.
Who'll be your co-workers?
Between 2002 and 2012, the BLS expects the civilian labor force will grow by 12 percent, or 17.4 million people, for a total of 162.3 million workers. That's faster than the 11.3 percent increase seen between 1992 and 2002, when 14.4 million workers were added.
The fastest-growing group will be seniors. The number of workers 55 and older is projected to increase by 49.3 percent. And they will account for 19.1 percent of the work force, up from 14.3 percent.
Women will also account for a larger share of the working population, up 1 percent to 47.5 percent by 2012. Men's share, meanwhile, is expected to decline by 1 percent to 52.5 percent.
The BLS employment projections report, which is updated every two years, will form the basis for the 2004-05 edition of the BLS's Occupational Outlook Handbook, due out at the end of February.