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Employment Projections
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Labor Force Projections Evaluation: 2002-2012

Labor force projections begin with civilian noninstitutional population (CNIP) estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau, to which BLS applies our projected labor force participation rates. Errors in BLS labor force projections can therefore come from either source. For more information, refer to our evaluation methodology.

Limitations

In 2000 the Census added a new race category, "Two or more races," which limits BLS' ability to confidently evaluate the accuracy of our labor force projections by race. BLS projections were developed using the categories from before 20001, which are not comparable to the categories published in 2012.2

Measuring accuracy

How often did BLS correctly project growth and decline for labor force segments?

BLS correctly projected which labor force segments would grow and which would decline about 79 percent of the time.3

How much did BLS project the labor force to grow between 2002 and 2012?

BLS projected the labor force to grow 12 percent between 2002 and 2012.

How much did the labor force actually grow?

The labor force actually grew 7 percent between 2002 and 2012.

What contributed to the difference?

After the release of the 2002–12 projections, there was a recession which reduced employment and shifted labor force participation rates. In 2012, the labor force had fewer workers in the younger cohorts and more in the older cohorts than BLS projected.

Accuracy of the CNIP projections

The 2012 actual CNIP was similar to the projected CNIP, with an absolute difference of less than one percent, and relatively low dissimilarity indexes.

Table 1. CNIP dissimilarity indexes

Race

Sex

Dissimilarity index

All

All

1.0%

All

Male

1.3%

All

Female

0.8%

Accuracy of the labor force projections

In most cases the naïve model outperformed the BLS projections, as measured by lower absolute percent error. In almost all cases the naïve model over– or under–projected the labor force in tandem with the BLS projections. The actual 2012 labor force generally had fewer workers in the younger cohorts and more in the older cohorts than BLS projected.

Table 2. Absolute percent error by age group

Age

Actual 2012 labor force

Labor force projection

Absolute percent error

Best performer

BLS

Naïve

BLS

Naïve

16 and 17

1952

2632

2840

34.8%

45.5%

BLS

18 and 19

3870

5005

4964

29.3%

28.3%

Naïve

20 and 21

5715

6222

6255

8.9%

9.5%

BLS

22 to 24

9747

10519

10407

7.9%

6.8%

Naïve

25 to 29

16792

17599

17779

4.8%

5.9%

BLS

30 to 34

16673

17807

17659

6.8%

5.9%

Naïve

35 to 39

15658

16491

16026

5.3%

2.3%

Naïve

40 to 44

17076

17943

17571

5.1%

2.9%

Naïve

45 to 49

17456

18506

18301

6.0%

4.8%

Naïve

50 to 54

17598

18520

18574

5.2%

5.5%

BLS

55 to 59

14908

15039

14905

0.9%

0.0%

Naïve

60 and 61

4721

4678

4504

0.9%

4.6%

BLS

62 to 64

5081

4900

4813

3.6%

5.3%

BLS

65 to 69

4427

3889

4056

12.2%

8.4%

Naïve

70 to 74

1917

1522

1641

20.6%

14.4%

Naïve

75 to 79

853

607

615

28.8%

27.9%

Naïve

80 and over

530

392

339

26.0%

36.0%

BLS

Examining the mean absolute percent errors and weighted mean absolute percent errors shown below in tables 3 and 4 reveals minor differences in the performance of the BLS projections and the naïve model. The substantially smaller weighted mean absolute percent errors indicate that the BLS projections and the naïve model both made smaller errors in the larger population cohorts.

Table 3. Mean absolute percent error, labor force

Race

Sex

Mean absolute percent error

Best performer

BLS

Naïve

All

All

12.2%

12.6%

BLS

All

Male

11.7%

11.6%

Naïve

All

Female

12.6%

13.8%

BLS

Table 4. Weighted mean absolute percent error, labor force

Race

Sex

Weighted mean absolute percent error

Best performer

BLS

Naïve

All

All

6.7%

6.1%

Naïve

All

Male

5.7%

4.8%

Naïve

All

Female

8.1%

8.0%

Naïve

Dissimilarity indexes provide another measure of accuracy, but as with the measures presented above, BLS projections performed similarly to the naïve model for the 2002–12 labor force projections.

Table 5. Labor force dissimilarity indexes

Race

Sex

BLS

Naïve

Best performer

All

All

1.8%

2.0%

BLS

All

Male

1.7%

1.9%

BLS

All

Female

2.0%

2.6%

BLS

Note

1These categories are: White, Black, Asian, Hispanic, White Hispanic, and White Non-Hispanic.

2These categories are: White, Black, Asian, Two or more, Hispanic, and White Non-Hispanic.

3Male and female, all detailed age groups.

 

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Last Modified Date: August 1, 2018