Job Outlook: What It Is and Why It's Important
Updated June 24, 2022
Job outlook is a common metric used to express how many people are employed in a certain position or occupation for a period of time. Knowing the job outlook for a career you're interested in can help inform you of several important factors, including if that career will continue to grow over the next few years and whether there is good job availability for that occupation. In this article, we explore the definition of job outlook, what it can tell you, why it's important to research job outlooks when searching for a position and how to interpret job outlook figures.
Job outlook definition
Job outlook is a term used to describe the forecast of the anticipated change in a particular occupation. This forecast is usually estimated based on how many people are expected to be employed in a given occupation over a period of time, such as five or 10 years. The job outlook in the United States is predicted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which is a part of the U.S. Department of Labor. They provide information as to whether and how much job outlook will decrease or increase for hundreds of jobs in the U.S. This information is updated and published every two years in the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Occupational Outlook Handbook.
What does job outlook tell you?
The job outlook of a particular position tells you how much that position is anticipated to grow over the next few years. Job outlooks in the Occupational Outlook Handbook are distinguished based on how much the BLS predicts the occupation will change. The BLS uses the following metrics when displaying job outlook information to consumers:
Decline: This means the employment for this occupation is predicted to decline by 1% or more.
Little or no change: This means the employment for this occupation is predicted to remain unchanged.
Grow slower than average: This means the employment for this occupation is predicted to increase by 1% to 2%.
Grow about as fast as the average: This means the employment for this occupation is predicted to increase by 3% to 4 %.
Grow faster than the average: This means the employment for this occupation is predicted to increase by 5% to 7%.
Grow much faster than average: This means the employment for this occupation is predicted to increase by 8% or more.
Based on the metrics assigned to the career you're interested in pursuing, you'll be able to see how much that career is estimated to grow between now and five to 10 years from now.
Why is it important to look at job outlook when searching for a job?
Looking at job outlook when deciding on a new position to pursue is an important component to ensuring job security. The higher the job outlook for that position, the more likely you are to both find and keep a job in that field.
There are several other important components of what job outlook can tell you in terms of the job you're interested in. These factors include:
Whether you're likely to find a position when your training and/or education is complete
Whether training and education for that position is readily available
Whether there will be potential for growth within that position in the future
Whether that position will still be in demand several years from now
Whether the position has a good job outlook in a certain location
It's also beneficial to be aware of the job outlook for your current job, even if you are thinking of switching careers. If you find that the job outlook for your current position is anticipated to decline, you may want to consider starting your journey toward a different career path.
How to interpret job outlook figures
When interpreting job outlook figures provided by the BLS, it's important to go by the descriptions this entity offers. For example, if you are looking for the job outlook for cooks and the BLS reports that the projected employment outlook for this position is 5%, this means that cook positions are expected to grow faster than average. If the job outlook is expected to grow by 1%, this means that cook positions are anticipated to increase at a slower rate than the average of other positions in the U.S.
Drawbacks of job outlook predictions
While looking into the job outlook of a position you plan to pursue is certainly important, you should keep in mind that there are a few limitations to job outlook figures.
The first limitation is that a job outlook prediction does not provide you with all of the relevant information needed to anticipate your ability to find employment in a particular field. One way to combat this is to look at job prospects in addition to job outlook. Job prospects show you how many job seekers there are in a particular category compared to how many open positions there are. While the BLS may estimate a position to grow over the next several years, there may be a lack of actual jobs available.
Another potential limitation of job outlook predictions is the fact that these predictions are not always 100% accurate. While economists certainly go to great lengths to make accurate and educated job outlook predictions, the economy is susceptible to change. For example, an unpredicted downturn in a particular industry can result in the job outlook for a position to decrease despite economists originally predicting it to increase.
Examples of job outlooks
The following are examples of job outlooks as provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics:
Management analysts: Projected to grow by 11% between now and 2029, or much faster than average.
Construction managers: Projected to grow by 8% between now and 2029, or much faster than average.
Retail salespersons: Projected to grow by -1% between now and 2029, or much lower than average.
Elementary school teachers: Projected to grow by 4% between now and 2029, or about as much as average.
Counselors: Projected to grow by 13% between now and 2029, or much faster than average.
Lawyers: Projected to grow by 4% between now and 2029, or about as fast as average.
Registered nurses: Projected to grow by 7% between now and 2029, or faster than average.
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