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September 1997, Vol. 120, No. 9
Howard N Fullerton, Jr.
For the 1984-95 period, the Bureau of Labor Statistics correctly identified the most significant labor force trends. In terms of the direction of change in labor force participation rates, the most significant errors were in the cases of very young workers and older workers. These errors, however, had a small impact on the projection error for the total labor force because of the relatively small number of workers in the two age groups.
Levels. The projection of the total civilian labor force, 129.2 million, was 3.1 million lower than the actual 1995 labor force of 132.3 million, an error of 2.8 percent.1 (See table 1.) The Bureau correctly projected the slowing rate of labor force growth for the 1984-95 period, compared with the previous 11 years. The 27-percent increase from 1973 to 1984 was projected to slow to 13.8 percent from 1984 to 1995, but the actual slowing was somewhat less, as the actual growth was 16.5 percent. That the projected rate of growth was lower than the actual rate reflects offsetting errors in the population projections prepared by the Bureau of the Census and the labor force participation rates for specific age, sex, and racial groups that were prepared by the BLS.
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1 This section focuses on the 1995 projections as part of the Bureau's series of 1984-95 projections. In the previous series of projections, covering the 1982-95 period, the projected labor force of 131.4 million was more accurate, with the error being 900,000, or 0.7 percent. For a review of all six BLS labor force projections to 1995, see Howard N Fullerton, "Evaluating the 1995 BLS Labor Force Projections," 1997 Proceedings of the Section on Government Statistics (Alexandria, VA, American Statistical Association, forthcoming).
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