A little noticed but highly impactful change was proposed in July by the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) announcing a major milestone for project managers nationally: Under its proposed rule, which would begin in 2018, BLS will recognize "Project Manager" as an occupational category for the first time. This proposed change to the BLS Standard Occupational Classification is big news for the project management profession.

This change reflects the increasing role project management plays across the economy and industries.  Currently, project management is not uniquely tracked or measured as a distinct occupation; it's included within a menagerie of general management occupations, which fails to properly recognize its place within an organization and the reality or the role that project managers play in enabling organizations and government agencies to successfully complete their initiatives and missions. As organizations are shifting to a project and mission focus, they are seeking professionals with the specific skills, training and certifications that today's project managers embody, including the Project Management Professional certification.

Perhaps more importantly, the economic contribution of project management professionals will now be measured by BLS. While the Project Management Institute (PMI) has been studying and measuring the profession for decades as the world's largest professional membership associations for the project management profession, the BLS occupational outlook and employment data will improve existing data about project managers and the profession, which includes PMI's annual Pulse of the Profession report, its Earning Power: Project Management Salary Survey and more. This new information will add depth to information about the key drivers impacting the project management profession including labor shortages, industry trends, skill gaps, post-secondary education developments, job turnover, diversity and the aging workforce to ensure the talent pool has the correct skills and competencies that project and program managers need today and into the future.

PMI advocates for the profession of project management on an ongoing basis and continues to advocate for the Program Management Improvement and Accountability Act (PMIAA), legislation that will strengthen accountability and enhance leading project and program management practices throughout the federal government. On Sept. 22, the U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved the PMIAA, and we encourage action by the U.S. Senate after the November elections.

These developments confirm what we already know: The continued advancement of project management is an important driver for the U.S. and global economy.

PMI analysis concluded that between now and 2020, there will be an estimated 234,883 open project management jobs each year across seven project-intensive industries, for a total of 939,532 jobs over the next four years: business services, construction, finance and insurance, information services, manufacturing, oil and gas, and utilities. This will result in an annual domestic economic impact of more than $156 billion. Across the globe, the impact is even more dramatic: 1.57 million available project management jobs per year between now and 2020 will drive a worldwide economic impact of more than $661 billion annually.

The BLS recommendation to create a project manager occupational category is not only a huge achievement for the profession, it also recognizes the unique work and economic value project managers drive — both in the U.S. and around the world.

Jordon Sims is director of organization relations and programs for the Project Management Institute.