May 23, 2003
Comparing actual occupational employment in 2000 with the projections that appeared in the 1990-91 Occupational Outlook Handbook for the six largest occupations (measured by actual employment in 2000) shows that the projections were quite accurate; in four out of six cases, the actual employment numbers are within 10 percent of the projections.
The retail salespersons occupation was projected to have employment of 4,564,000 people in 2000; actual employment was 4,223,000. Employment of general managers and top executives was projected to be 3,509,000; actual employment was a very close 3,539,000. Janitors and cleaners, including maids and housekeeping cleaners, were projected to number 3,450,000; the actual number was 3,300,000.
The projection for cashiers—the occupation that created the most new jobs during the period, 979,000—missed the mark. The 2000 projection for cashiers was 2,614,000; actual employment was 3,289,000. Employment of office clerks, general, was projected to be 2,974,000; the actual figure was 3,192,000. The number of truckdrivers in 2000, 3,072,000, was somewhat higher than the projected 2,768,000.
In the 1990-91 Handbook, these occupations were projected to grow "about as fast as average." It turned out that one of these occupations (retail salespeople) grew more slowly, two (general managers and top executives, and janitors and cleaners) grew as fast as average, two (office clerks and truckdrivers) grew faster than average, and one (cashiers) grew much faster.
These data are from the BLS Employment Projections program, which produces the "Occupational Outlook Handbook." More information on the accuracy of employment projections can be found in "The 1988-2000 Employment Projections: How accurate were they?" by Andrew Alpert and Jill Auyer, Occupational Outlook Quarterly, Spring 2003.
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, The Economics Daily, When the future becomes the past: 1988-2000 projections for large occupations at https://www.bls.gov/opub/ted/2003/may/wk3/art05.htm (visited October 20, 2021).