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Employment Projections

Industry Projections Evaluation: 2008–2018

BLS estimated models for roughly 200 detailed industries that were then summed to sectors and major sectors1. Detailed industry projections were constrained to sum to the total nonfarm wage and salary employment provided by the macroeconomic model.

Changes to the industry classification system presented a challenge in evaluating these sets of projections. Therefore, BLS analyzed only the 16 aggregate industry major sectors rather than the detailed industries published within the projections publications. For more information, refer to our evaluation methodology.

Measuring accuracy

How often did BLS correctly project growth and decline for industries?

BLS correctly projected which major industry would grow and which would decline 81 percent of the time.

The service-producing sector, representing over 80 percent of U.S. employment, was correctly projected to experience continued growth over the 2008-18 decade. However, within the service sectors, Information, State and Local Government, and Wholesale Trade were all expected to increase, but instead had slight declines. While BLS incorrectly predicted that the goods-producing sector as a whole would increase, BLS correctly predicted the direction of the sectors within the goods-producing sector. As predicted, employment in the Manufacturing and Mining sectors declined and employment in the Construction sector increased.

What did BLS project as the nonagriculture wage and salary compound annual rate of growth from 2008 to 2018?

The projected compound annual growth rate from 2008 to 2018 was 1.0 percent.

What was the actual nonagriculture wage and salary compound annual rate of growth from 2008 to 2018?

The actual compound annual growth rate from 2008 to 2018 was 0.8 percent.

What contributed to the difference?

Since the macroeconomic model overprojected U.S. employment, industry sectors also tended to be projected higher than what was realized.

For each of the following measures the BLS projection was compared against this naïve model.

Table 1. All industry absolute percent error, 2008-18
Sector Actual 2018 employment Employment Projections Absolute percent error Best performer
BLS Naïve BLS Naïve

Nonagriculture wage and salary

149,804 152,444 151,353 2% 1% Naïve


The Naïve model outperformed the BLS model for total nonagriculture wage and salary employment. However, the BLS model outperformed the Naïve model in the majority of the major sectors in the absolute percent error measurement. The major sectors where the BLS model did not outperform the Naïve model are Wholesale Trade, Retail Trade, Professional and Business Services, Leisure and Hospitality, and Other Services.


Table 2. Absolute percent error by major sector, 2008-18
Sector Actual 2018 employment Employment Projections Absolute percent error Best performer
BLS Naïve BLS Naïve


683 613 801 10% 17% BLS


7,289 8,552 8,828 17% 21% BLS


12,689 12,225 8,609 4% 32% BLS


555 501 474 10% 15% BLS

Wholesale Trade

5,853 6,220 5,984 6% 2% Naïve

Retail Trade

15,833 16,010 16,001 1% 1% Naïve

Transportation and Warehousing

5,419 4,950 4,730 9% 13% BLS


2,828 3,115 2,451 10% 13% BLS

Financial Activities

8,569 8,703 9,148 2% 7% BLS

Professional and Business Services

21,000 21,968 20,055 5% 4% Naïve

Educational Services

3,728 3,842 3,861 3% 4% BLS

Health Care and Social Assistance

19,939 19,816 22,841 1% 15% BLS

Leisure and Hospitality

16,349 14,601 15,714 11% 4% Naïve

Other Services

6,622 7,142 6,967 8% 5% Naïve

Federal Government

2,796 2,859 2,670 2% 5% BLS

State and Local Government

19,653 21,327 22,219 9% 13% BLS


Share analysis

Since aggregate employment was overprojected, detailed industries also tended to be overprojected. Comparing the projected share of the labor market with the actual share helps to address whether BLS correctly advised career-seeking customers which industry to pursue. BLS was more accurate than the naïve model in twelve of the sixteen major sectors.

Share in percent of employment by major sector: historical base year 2006, projected Bureau of Labor Statistics 2016, and actual 2016

View Chart Data


1Sectors and major sectors are aggregations of NAICS industries.

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Last Modified Date: March 16, 2020