The Future Is Now

Don't know what to expect from the workplace over the next decade? Our experts share the latest developments to help you operate on solid footing.

Congratulations! You’ve made it through the first month of 2000 virtually unscathed. Now that the fever has subsided, it’s time to get down to the business at hand-bringing your career into the new millennium.

The economy is still going strong, with unemployment rates holding steady at 4%. This is great news for those workers with special skills who will be able to translate their talents into higher earnings potential. And provided that the economy continues to grow at a sustained rate, the good tidings should last for some time.

Not everyone, however, will be able to collect more pay, as employers are becoming increasingly judicious in negotiating packages for their workers. Similarly, technology has enhanced productivity and enabled companies to get more work out of their employees in the same amount of time for the same amount of money.

Fortunately, there is little else in the way of bad news. The seemingly worst thing about the job landscape for the coming months is that the numbers haven’t changed much in the last couple of years. The Bureau of Labor Statistics is still holding fast to its projections of an aging workforce: between 1996 and 2006, those in the 45 to 54 and 55 to 64 age groups will increase by 30%, while the 35 to 44 age bracket will remain 25% of the labor force. And, the population will be more racially diverse. Within six years, the black and Latino labor forces will be nearly equal in size (about 19 million), the Asian and “other” segments will increase slightly, while white workers will drop slightly to account for 73% of the overall labor population.

The job market itself will continue to be tight, thanks to the slowest labor force growth in 25 years. Between 1996 and 2006, the workforce population is expected to grow by 11%, or 14.9 million, to 149 million-1.2 million fewer than in the previous 10-year period. For prospective employees, this still means competition for plum jobs. For employers, it means the talent pool is slightly smaller-but the fish are still plentiful.

According to the American Management Association’s (AMA) 1999 annual survey of nearly 1,200 large and mid-size firms, 65% of respondents perceived a scarcity of skilled workers in their industries. “The results this past year demonstrate a somewhat slower rate of job growth compared with previous years,” confirms Eric Rolfe Greenberg, the AMA’s director of management studies in New York City. But this should be little cause for widespread alarm. “Nothing indicates a return to the ‘decade of downsizing’ that ended in the mid-’90s.”

In fact, if you’re highly skilled and technically trained, a tight labor market is good news-there is plenty of earning power to be harnessed. Service industries-healthcare, social services, engineering, etc.-will account for virtually all of the job growth until the year 2006, producing one of every two of the 3.9 million wage and salaried jobs to be added to the economy. Jobs in manufacturing, however, are projected to dip by as much as 350,000.

Not surprisingly, information technology

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