Bureau of Labor Statistics

Projections of the labor force, 2014–24

December 2015

Increases or decreases in the size of the labor force can significantly affect the growth of the economy. The charts in this article show how the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects the labor force to change between men and women, age groups, racial groups (Asians, Blacks, Whites, and others), and ethnic groups (Hispanic origin and White non-Hispanic).

The labor force is the number of people ages 16 and older who are either working or actively looking for work. It does not include active-duty military personnel or the institutionalized population, such as prison inmates. 

The total labor force is expected to grow about 0.5 percent per year from 2014 to 2024. This average growth rate is shown as a dotted vertical line in Chart 3. As in previous years, the labor force is projected to grow more slowly than the number of jobs, but this does not indicate a labor shortage. Instead, this discrepancy reflects that these two measures are based on different concepts.

(For more information on how BLS develops the projections, read about our methodology.)

Charting the labor force

Labor force participation rates are projected to fall slightly for both men and women. (See chart 1.)

View Chart Data

Chart 1: Change in labor force participation rate by sex

Change in labor force participation rate for workers 16 years and older, 1954–2014 and projected 2014–24
Year Total Men Women

1954

58.8 85.5 34.6

1955

59.3 85.4 35.7

1956

60.0 85.5 36.9

1957

59.6 84.8 36.9

1958

59.5 84.2 37.1

1959

59.3 83.7 37.1

1960

59.4 83.3 37.7

1961

59.3 82.9 38.1

1962

58.8 82.0 37.9

1963

58.7 81.4 38.3

1964

58.7 81.0 38.7

1965

58.9 80.7 39.3

1966

59.2 80.4 40.3

1967

59.6 80.4 41.1

1968

59.6 80.1 41.6

1969

60.1 79.8 42.7

1970

60.4 79.7 43.3

1971

60.2 79.1 43.4

1972

60.4 78.9 43.9

1973

60.8 78.8 44.7

1974

61.3 78.7 45.7

1975

61.2 77.9 46.3

1976

61.6 77.5 47.3

1977

62.3 77.7 48.4

1978

63.2 77.9 50.0

1979

63.7 77.8 50.9

1980

63.8 77.4 51.5

1981

63.9 77.0 52.1

1982

64.0 76.6 52.6

1983

64.0 76.4 52.9

1984

64.4 76.4 53.6

1985

64.8 76.3 54.5

1986

65.3 76.3 55.3

1987

65.6 76.2 56.0

1988

65.9 76.2 56.6

1989

66.5 76.4 57.4

1990

66.5 76.4 57.5

1991

66.2 75.8 57.4

1992

66.4 75.8 57.8

1993

66.3 75.4 57.9

1994

66.6 75.1 58.8

1995

66.6 75.0 58.9

1996

66.8 74.9 59.3

1997

67.1 75.0 59.8

1998

67.1 74.9 59.8

1999

67.1 74.7 60.0

2000

67.1 74.8 59.9

2001

66.8 74.4 59.8

2002

66.6 74.1 59.6

2003

66.2 73.5 59.5

2004

66.0 73.3 59.2

2005

66.0 73.3 59.3

2006

66.2 73.5 59.4

2007

66.0 73.2 59.3

2008

66.0 73.0 59.5

2009

65.4 72.0 59.2

2010

64.7 71.2 58.6

2011

64.1 70.5 58.1

2012

63.7 70.2 57.7

2013

63.2 69.7 57.2

2014

62.9 69.2 57.0

Projected 2015

62.7 69.0 56.9

Projected 2016

62.5 68.6 56.8

Projected 2017

62.3 68.3 56.7

Projected 2018

62.1 68.0 56.6

Projected 2019

61.9 67.7 56.5

Projected 2020

61.7 67.4 56.3

Projected 2021

61.5 67.1 56.2

Projected 2022

61.3 66.8 56.1

Projected 2023

61.1 66.5 56.0

Projected 2024

60.9 66.2 55.8

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Population Survey (historical data) and Employment Projections program (projected data).


As aging baby boomers continue working, the number of 65- to 74-year-olds in the labor force is projected to increase more than that of workers in other age groups. (See chart 2.)

View Chart Data

Chart 2: Change in labor force change by age (and sex)

Numeric change in labor force, projected 2014–24
Age group Total Men Women

16 to 24

-2,797,000 -1,483,000 -1,314,000

25 to 34

2,688,000 1,524,000 1,164,000

35 to 44

3,467,000 2,077,000 1,392,000

45 to 54

-2,225,000 -1,576,000 -650,000

55 to 64

1,652,000 501,000 1,151,000

65 to 74

3,764,000 1,917,000 1,846,000

75 and older

1,300,000 681,000 618,000

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.


Workers ages 75 and older are expected to have the fastest rate of growth. (See chart 3.)

View Chart Data

Chart 3: Percent change in labor force by age (and sex)

Annual growth rate in labor force, projected 2014–24
Age group Total Men Women

16 to 24

-1.4 -1.4 -1.4

25 to 34

0.8 0.8 0.7

35 to 44

1.0 1.1 0.9

45 to 54

-0.7 -0.9 -0.4

55 to 64

0.6 0.4 0.9

65 to 74

4.5 4.2 4.8

75 and older

6.4 6.0 6.9

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.


The labor force will continue to become more diverse. For example, as chart 4 shows, Whites’ share of the labor force is projected to decline and Blacks’ and Asians’ shares are projected to rise over the decade.

View Chart Data

Chart 4: Change in labor force distribution by race

Percent distribution of labor force, 2014 and projected 2024
Race or ethnicity 2014 Projected 2024

White

79.1 77.0

Black

12.1 12.7

Asian

5.6 6.6

All other groups*

3.2 3.7

* "All other groups" category includes those classified as being of multiple racial origin and the race categories of American Indian and Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islanders.

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.


Hispanics are projected to have the fastest rate of growth. (See chart 5.)

View Chart Data

Chart 5: Percent change in labor force by race and ethnic group

Annual growth rate in labor force, projected 2014–24
Race or ethnicity Annual growth rate

White

0.2

Black

1.0

Asian

2.1

All other groups*

2.0

Hispanic origin

2.5

White non-Hispanic

-0.3

* "All other groups" category includes those classified as being of multiple racial origin and the race categories of American Indian and Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islanders.

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

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