Projections of job growth provide valuable insight into future employment opportunities because each new job created is an opening for a worker entering an occupation. However, opportunities also arise when existing workers separate from their occupations. In most occupations, openings due to separations of existing workers provide many more opportunities than employment growth does.
To project occupational openings, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) calculates an estimate of separations caused by workers exiting the labor force, due to retirement or other reasons, and separations caused by workers transferring to different occupations. Projections of separations are combined with projections of employment change to determine occupational openings. This estimate of openings does not count workers who change jobs but remain in the same occupation.
BLS projects occupational separations using two different models, one for labor force exits and another for occupational transfers. Both models use a regression analysis of historical data to identify the characteristics of a worker, such as age and educational attainment, that make them likely to separate from their occupation. These patterns from historical data are then applied to the current distribution of employment for each occupation to project future separations.
A detailed technical description of the method provides specifics on the data sources and model specifications.
The occupational separations method was first used with the 2016–26 projections. Before then, BLS used a cohort-component method for estimating job openings due to replacement needs from the 1991 through the 2014–24 projections. This method is no longer in use because BLS identified statistical and conceptual issues with the implementation of this method that compromised the accuracy and validity of the resulting estimates. BLS began developing the separations method in 2011 and only adopted it after a lengthy development process, including considerable outreach to users, including a notice of solicitation of comments in the Federal Register.