The COVID-19 pandemic has shown the pernicious effect of deep racial and gender inequities in the labor market. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) 10-year projections about growing (and declining) jobs suggest a grim post-COVID future. The projections are published annually after extensive consultations about likely change for 790 detailed occupations with industry and demographic experts; for 2019-2029 they estimate that there will be 4.78 million more workers in the workforce in 2029 than in 2019 and their model assumes that everyone will find a job. The BLS estimate that just one broad occupation—home health and personal care aides; and nursing assistants, orderlies, and psychiatric aides (hereafter, Health and Personal Care)—will account for more than a quarter (26.9%) or 1.1 million of projected new jobs.
Without a minimum wage increase, millions of workers entering these occupations will struggle with low wages and lack of benefits. The median annual earnings of women Health and Personal Care workers for full-time, year-round work in 2019 were just below the official poverty line for a family of four. Raising the minimum wage to $15 would add almost $4,000 to their annual earnings. Nearly nine in ten (87%) workers are women, and almost half (49.6%) are Black, Hispanic, and other women of color (IWPR analysis of 2019 CPS-ASEC). While Health and Personal Care jobs have been growing strongly for at least two decades, wages have remained low leaving many workers and their families living in or near poverty.
The BLS publishes these projections to help educators, workforce developers, and individuals prepare for the future. Improving women’s access to good jobs that do not need a four-year college degree is one necessary route, including jobs in skilled trades and technical occupations. The continued aging of the population, however, means that these jobs will continue to be critical to the overall health and well-being of the population. Raising earnings and benefits in these jobs would mean a living wage for workers. Care is critical, and care workers deserve to lift themselves and their families above the poverty line.