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August 1992, Vol. 115, No. 8
Evaluating the 1990 projections of occupational employment
Neal H. Rosenthal
The Bureau of Labor Statistics occupational projections are a valuable resource for counselors, students, and others concerned with the future occupational composition of the U.S. labor force. The development of these projections requires careful analysis of large amounts of data to identify occupational employment trends and the factors causing them, and to determine a likely course for those trends in the future.
However, there is inherent uncertainty in any projection. Consequently, BLS periodically evaluates the results of past projections to gauge how well the projections tracked against actual occupational employment change. This process provides users of occupational projections with information about the accuracy of projections of the future growth of occupations that may be valuable in career decision making, education planning, and other endeavors. In addition, analysts developing projections gain insight into the process that resulted in errors or accurate projections that can be used in the development of future projections. Thus, BLS considers evaluation to be an important stage of the projections program.
The last BLS occupational projections to be formally evaluated were the projections to 1980 from a base year of 1970.1 The projections to 1985 were not evaluated because they were based on the 1970 census occupational classification system, which was so different from the classification system in use in 1985 that the projected and actual data were not comparable. The projections for the period 1978-90 also were not evaluated because they were not used in any edition of the BLS Occupational Outlook Handbook and, as indicated below, assessing information presented in the Handbook is an important aspect of the evaluation. However, projected 1990 employment in the 1978-90 set of projections2 was nearly identical to the 1980-90 projections evaluated in this article. Consequently, the evaluation of those projections would be virtually the same as that presented here, because the differences between projected and actual 1990 employment were used as the basic measure of accuracy.
This excerpt is from an article published in the August 1992 issue of the Monthly Labor Review. The full text of the article is available in Adobe Acrobat's Portable Document Format (PDF). See How to view a PDF file for more information.
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1 See Max L. Carey and Kevin Kasunic, "Evaluating the 1980 projections of occupational employment," Monthly Labor Review, July 1982, pp. 22-30.
2 Two sets of 1978-90 projections were developed. One set was based on occupational staffing patterns from the 1970 census, and the other, on occupational staffing patterns from the Occupational Employment Statistics survey. The latter were not used in any edition of the Occupational Outlook Handbook. The former were used in the 1980-81 edition of the Handbook, but the occupational classification is not comparable to that used in 1990.
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