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Employment Projections
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Industry Projections Evaluation: 2002–2012

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 15 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 about 67 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 2002–12 decade. The only incorrect projections of directional change within the service sectors were in retail trade, information, and financial activities. All three sectors were expected to increase, but instead had slight declines. BLS incorrectly expected that the goods–producing sector would grow. Instead, the sector declined due to a drop in employment in manufacturing and mining.

What did BLS project as the compound annual rate of growth from 2002 to 2012?

The projected compound annual growth rate from 2002 to 2012 was 1.5 percent.

What was the actual compound annual rate of growth from 2002 to 2012?

The actual compound annual growth rate from 2002 to 2012 was 0.3 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, 2002—12

Sector

Actual 2012 employment

Employment Projections

Absolute Percent Error

Best Performer

BLS

Naïve

BLS

Naïve

Nonfarm W&S

134,794

152,690

159,955

13%

19%

BLS

Table 2. Absolute percent error by major sector, 2002—12

Sector

Actual 2012 employment

Employment Projections

Absolute Percent Error

Best Performer

BLS

Naïve

BLS

Naïve

Mining

797

451

427

43%

46%

BLS

Construction

5,646

7,745

9,518

37%

69%

BLS

Manufacturing

11,927

15,149

15,911

27%

33%

BLS

Utilities

553

565

441

2%

20%

BLS

Wholesale Trade

5,667

6,279

6,731

11%

19%

BLS

Retail Trade

14,841

17,129

18,076

15%

22%

BLS

Transportation and Warehousing

4,416

5,120

5,399

16%

22%

BLS

Information

2,676

4,052

4,727

51%

77%

BLS

Financial Activities

7,784

8,806

9,345

13%

20%

BLS

Professional and Business Services

17,932

20,876

23,209

16%

29%

BLS

Education and Health Services

20,698

21,329

20,229

3%

2%

Naïve

Leisure and Hospitality

13,769

14,104

14,978

2%

9%

BLS

Other Services

6,168

7,065

7,115

15%

15%

BLS

Federal Government

2,820

2,779

2,364

1%

16%

BLS

State and Local Government

19,100

21,240

21,485

11%

12%

BLS

The BLS model outperformed the naïve model in almost all major sectors in the absolute percent error measurement. The only major sector where the BLS model did not outperform the naïve model is educational and health services.

Share analysis

Since aggregate employment was overprojected, detailed industries also tended to be overprojected. The projections, however, do not need to be close to the actual outcomes to be helpful to our data users in advising their career decisions. 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.

An example is the professional and business services sector. Employment in the professional and business services sector was projected to increase annually at 2.7 percent over the 2002–12 projections period, making up 13.7 percent of the total employment share by 2012. However, the actual employment in professional and business services increased slower than expected, at an annual rate of 1.1 percent. Despite the slower growth rate, the sector still made up 13.3 percent of the total employment share in 2012, only 0.4 percent less than projected.

Share in percent of employment by major sector: historical base year 2002, projected Bureau of Labor Statistics 2012, and actual 2012

View Chart Data

Note

1 Subsectors and sectors are aggregations of NAICS industries.

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 Last Modified Date: August 1, 2018