cade will be continuations of trends already well under way. For that reason, the committee’s analysis of future changes likely to affect the training of OSH personnel begins with a review of prominent demographic trends of the last few decades. Among the significant trends discussed in this chapter are the rapid growth in the number of Hispanics and Asians in the labor force and the continued increase in women’s share of the workforce. The aging of the baby boom generation has also increased the number of older workers in the labor force.

The primary source of data for this chapter is the Bureau of Labor Statistics, especially its periodic data collections such as the Current Population Survey. Many of these data are directly accessible at the Bureau of Labor Statistics website (, but many of the tables and figures are the result of a specific request and can be replicated only by contacting the Bureau of Labor Statistics and asking for a tabulation of the specific data in question.


Several developments have been important contributors to the labor force changes of the past few decades. Among such factors are the completion of the entry of the baby boom generation into the workforce and the impact of the smaller birth cohort that followed the baby boomers into the workforce. In addition, the continued entry of women into the labor force over the past few decades has profoundly affected the distribution of men and women in the workforce. The third important workforce development over the past few decades has been the increased immigration of Asians and Hispanics into the United States and their subsequent entry into the workforce.

A closer look at each of these elements of labor force change should provide a better understanding of likely future labor force developments. Overall, the workforce growth in the most recent 10-year period (1988 to 1998) has been both in numerical and in percentage terms slower than that in the previous decade (an increase of 16 million [10 percent] workers in the period from 1988 to 1998 compared with an increase of 19 million [12 percent] from 1978 to 1988). This slowing in the rate of growth of the labor force reflects the much smaller size of the birth cohort that followed the baby boomers into the workforce. Labor force change has also been influenced by the fact that although the number of women in the workforce is still growing faster than the number of men, the gap between the growth rates of these two groups has narrowed appreciably.

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