RAND recently released a study analyzing the forces shaping America’s workforce over the next decade or so. Among the key trends identified in the study: The nation’s workforce will be nearly static by 2010, growing just 0.4 percent a year—a sharp decline from the 1.1 percent annual increases seen in the 1990s and the 2.6 percent annual increases of the 1970s.

The slowing workforce growth rate is caused primarily by a 25 percent decline in the birthrate that followed the end of the baby boom in the 1960s and a trend toward earlier retirement by men. Only the continued influx of immigrant workers and women into the workforce will keep the workforce growing at all, according to RAND.

There are a couple of implications here. One, it will be more difficult to recruit workers when times are good. (One underutilized pool of potential workers is individuals with disabilities. Fewer than 1 in 3 of working age is currently employed, leaving 12 million out of the workforce.) Two, programs like Social Security and Medicare will be under greater stress, since fewer workers will be supporting more retirees. By 2050, in fact, there will be only three working-age adults per retired person in the United States, although that is better than the 2-to-1 ratio in the United Kingdom, France, and Germany and 1.4 to 1 in Japan, Spain, and Italy.

Some other interesting data nuggets in the study…more here.