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October 2003, Vol. 126, No. 10
Evaluating the BLS 1988–2000 employment projections
Andrew Alpert and Jill Auyer
The BLS occupational employment projections developed for the 1988–2000 period were reasonably accurate, correctly capturing most general occupational trends. As with previous evaluations, however, the inaccuracies that surfaced reflected a conservative tilt to the projections. The primary source of error was the projection of changes in the utilization of occupations by industry, or staffing patterns, rather than the projections of industry employment themselves.
In the study presented in this article, several different measures were used to assess the accuracy of the projections for both major occupational groups and detailed occupations. Among the various measures, the most traditional involved comparing actual with projected employment in terms of percent change, numerical growth, and share of employment growth between 1988 and 2000. An absolute percent error—the absolute value of the numerical error divided by actual employment in the target year of the projection—was calculated for all major groups and detailed occupations. The actual and projected directions of change also were compared, to see whether employment in occupations that were projected to grow or decline actually did so.1 Finally, because the 1988–2000 occupational employment projections were the basis for job outlook information presented in the 1990–91 edition of the Occupational Outlook Handbook, the accuracy of the projections was assessed in terms of the assumptions made about the factors affecting employment growth or decline.
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1 See George Silvestri and John Lukasiewicz, "Projections of occupational employment, 1988–2000," Monthly Labor Review, November 1989, pp. 42–65.
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