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May 1999, Vol. 122, No. 5
The quality of BLS projections: a historical account
Neal H. Rosenthal
Projections of employment change provide the foundation for the statements on employment outlook presented in the Occupational Outlook Handbook. Consequently, the quality of employment outlook information presented in the Handbook is very dependent on the accuracy of the projections. Prior to 1960, discussions of employment outlook were based primarily on informed judgments about the direction and magnitude of employment change rather than a formal set of numerical projections. Since 1960, the Handbook statements on employment outlook have been based on a set of statistical projections. The first numerical projections published by BLS covered the 196070 period. However, data were published only for major occupational groups.1 BLS did not publish information on projected numerical change for detailed occupations until 1966.2 Since then, projections have been developed and published every other year, conforming to the biennial production of the Occupational Outlook Handbook.
The procedures for developing the projections have changed significantly over the years stemming from research devoted to improving methods for developing employment projections. In addition, more employment and related economic data of higher quality have become available over time for use in developing projections. BLS economists also gained experience in developing projections and gathered information from past efforts through detailed methodological and analytical memorandums prepared by economists who preceded them.
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1 Manpower Challenge of the 1960s (U.S. Department of Labor, 1960).
2 The Outlook for Technological Change and Employment, Appendix Volume I, Technology and the American Economy (Washington, National Commission on Technology, Automation, and Economic Progress, February 1996).
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