U.S. Space Workforce
NASA workforce dynamics driven by programmatic changes are complicated by demographic trends within the overall U.S. space workforce. Both NASA civil servants and the wider U.S. aerospace industry workforce can be characterized as mono-generational. Rather than being evenly spread out over a wide range of ages, much of the workforce is concentrated within a narrow age range.
In addition to U.S. private sector employment, the U.S. government employs a substantial base of civilian space workers. NASA is the primary government agency responsible for civil space activity, including human spaceflight. As of November 2009, NASA directly employed ## people, referred to as “civil servants.”
In light of the ongoing conversation in the American space community about ensuring a long-term human capital supply, The Space Report 2010 identifies ## occupations important to sustaining space-relevant skill sets in the United States, and assembles data on them from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. While many of the people in these occupational categories work in industries other than space, together they comprise a key part of the labor pool from which space workers are drawn.
Space industry jobs stimulate the overall economy more than most other jobs because they offer higher salaries on average. Higher salaries provide professionals with more discretionary income to consume goods and services or reinvest in the larger economy. They also foster a larger tax base with which to make public investments.
From 2004 to 2008, nearly four U.S. space jobs were added for every one that was lost. During this period, employment in every sector of the U.S. space industry recorded by the BLS grew, except for satellite telecommunications. The bursting of the telecom bubble led to a decline in U.S. satellite telecommunications jobs from ## in 2001 to ## by 2004, a contraction of nearly 24%.
The most authoritative source of U.S. space industry workforce data is the Bureau of Labor Statistics. U.S. space industry core employment is measured by assessing the six BLS North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) codes detailed in Exhibit 4b. While NAICS codes reflect an official U.S. government approach to understanding and measuring employees and salaries, in some cases NAICS codes combine workers from different industry sectors under the same labor category, complicating an exact labor count.
According to data published by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), more than a quarter million Americans are employed in the space industry. The most recent (2006) estimate by the Federal Aviation Administration Office of Commercial Space Transportation calculates the combined direct and indirect value of the U.S. space industry, including the secondary and tertiary economic activities it enables, at approximately $## billion.
The Space Report 2009 identifies nine occupations particularly relevant to the U.S. space industry. They are shown in Exhibit 4i. These ## occupations not only comprise a diversified set of skills required to create a foundation for space activity, they also reflect the need to build space-related human capital through postsecondary education.
As Exhibit 4e shows, the combined average annual salary across the six core U.S. space industry sectors analyzed was $## in 2007, nearly double the average salary of U.S. professionals in the average private sector overall. For the first time on record, professionals in the federal space research and space vehicle manufacturing sectors earned an average salary above six figures, more than $##, or 2.3 times that of the average U.S. private sector worker.
Employment in every sector of the U.S. space industry analyzed in The Space Report 2009 grew between 2003 and 2007 with the exception of satellite telecommunications. The end of the telecom bubble in 2000 and 2001 prompted restructuring within the satellite telecommunications industry, including consolidation among operators.