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Need for Paralegals Seen Doubling in 10 Years

November 11, 1985|Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Paralegal workers who assist lawyers in preparing cases will represent the fastest growing occupation in the next 10 years, a Labor Department study concluded Friday.

The occupational outlook through 1995 also concludes that employment of stenographers, whose jobs are becoming outmoded due to office automation, is shrinking more rapidly than any other type of work.

According to the projections for the labor market overall, nine out of 10 new jobs in the next decade will be in the service sector of the economy. Employment in a number of manufacturing industries, such as steel, will continue to decline.

The projections also show that, while the U.S. economy is expected to add nearly 16 million jobs between 1984 and 1995, total employment growth of 15% will be considerably below the 23% growth figure from the previous 11 years.

The slowdown, among other things, mirrors the aging of the baby boom generation, which has already made its way into the work force. The slowing also reflects the decline in labor force participation by older people.

Nearly 75% of the 1995 labor force will be between ages 25 and 54, compared with two-thirds of the 1984 work force, the department's Bureau of Labor Statistics said.

The Labor Department also predicted a significant growth slowdown in the number of clerks, the largest of 500 job categories in the U.S. economy. On the other hand, the department said several occupations that did not exist 20 years ago will be among the fastest growing in the next decade.

Paralegal personnel, who numbered 53,000 in 1984, will nearly double to more than 100,000, according to department analysts. Physician's assistants, who numbered 25,000 in 1984, will add 10,000 new jobs for a 40% increase.

The jobs of skilled assistant to doctors and lawyers are new occupations that developed largely from a need to hold down costs.

The assistants are performing routine tasks formerly done by their bosses, thus freeing doctors and lawyers for more difficult work in their increasingly complex fields.

The job of physician's assistant is an occupation that grew rapidly after the Vietnam War, as returning medical corpsmen received additional training and then entered the labor market. Legal assistants and physician's assistants typically undergo two years of post-high school training.

After two decades of explosive growth, clerical employees constitute nearly 16% of the work force, with almost 19 million workers. But a new wave of automation in the workplace in the form of microcomputers is expected to hold down growth of the clerical work force to less than 10% through 1995.

Employment of stenographers, who are counted as clerks, is expected to decline by 40%, from 239,000 to 143,000, according to the department's projections. Office dictating equipment in many cases has made their jobs obsolete.

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