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Employment Projections

Occupational Projections Evaluation: 2008–2018

The main factor affecting occupational growth rates is the growth rate of the industries in which they are employed. But over time, industries also change the mix of occupations used to create their output. Occupational projections incorporate changes to both those factors. For more information, refer to our evaluation methodology.

Measuring Accuracy

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

BLS correctly projected whether an occupation would grow or decline 78 percent of the time.

What did BLS project as the average growth rate from 2008 to 2018?

The projected average growth rate for occupations from 2008 to 2018 was 10.1 percent.

What was the actual growth rate?

The actual average growth rate for occupations from 2008 to 2018 was 6.7 percent.

What contributed to the difference?

The 2008-2018 projections were made during the 2007-2009 recession while employment was still declining. The unusually long duration of the recovery from that recession contrasted with projections based on long-run, historical behavior.

Was BLS able to project which occupations would grow relatively faster in spite of the differences between projected and actual growth?

BLS correctly projected which occupations would grow faster than the economy as a whole 52 percent of the time.

A standard for comparison

An important way to evaluate any projection is to compare it against other, similar projections. This is not possible for occupational projections because there are no comparable projections which are not in some way derived from BLS projections. When no comparable projection exists another way of evaluating is to compare against a naïve model. The occupational evaluation uses the occupational–share naïve model

Different aspects of projections

In addition to detailed occupations, occupational projections were evaluated for:

  • Projections of major occupational groups
  • Projections of occupations combined based on the level of education and training BLS assigned in 2008

These two evaluations show how well BLS projected groups of related occupations. Each was compared to the occupational–share naïve model by summing the absolute differences from the actual result.

Table 1. Major occupational groups, combined scorecard
Measure BLS Naïve Which performed better

Sum of absolute differences

8.1% 9.4% BLS has a smaller sum of absolute differences for all major groups combined

Count of better score

16 6 BLS had a smaller sum of absolute differences for most major groups


Table 2. Detailed occupations, combined scorecard
Measure BLS Naïve Which performed better

Sum of absolute differences

14.7% 15.8% BLS has a smaller sum of absolute differences for all detailed occupations combined

Count of better score

413 324 BLS had a smaller sum of absolute differences for most detailed occupations


Table 3. Major occupational groups, sum of absolute differences
Occupational group BLS Naïve Which performed better

Management occupations

1.22 1.11 Occupational-Share Naïve

Business and financial operations occupations

0.36 0.39 BLS

Computer and mathematical occupations

0.51 0.58 BLS

Architecture and engineering occupations

0.29 0.31 BLS

Life, physical, and social science occupations

0.12 0.10 Occupational-Share Naïve

Community and social services occupations

0.50 0.51 BLS

Legal occupations

0.02 0.02 BLS

Education, training, and library occupations

0.70 0.72 BLS

Arts, design, entertainment, sports, and media occupations

0.31 0.35 BLS

Healthcare practitioners and technical occupations

0.40 0.52 BLS

Healthcare support occupations

0.46 0.33 Occupational-Share Naïve

Protective service occupations

0.14 0.12 Occupational-Share Naïve

Food preparation and serving related occupations

1.29 1.29 BLS

Building and grounds cleaning and maintenance occupations

0.18 0.25 BLS

Personal care and service occupations

1.35 1.55 BLS

Sales and related occupations

1.16 1.43 BLS

Office and administrative support occupations

2.76 3.06 BLS

Farming, fishing, and forestry occupations

0.15 0.19 BLS

Construction and extraction occupations

0.85 0.80 Occupational-Share Naïve

Installation, maintenance, and repair occupations

0.33 0.35 BLS

Production occupations

0.78 1.00 BLS

Transportation and material moving occupations

0.84 0.80 Occupational-Share Naïve


Table 4. Education & training, sum of absolute differences
Education and training classification BLS Naïve Which performed better

Bachelor's or higher degree, plus work experience

1.00 1.00 Occupational-Share Naïve

Work experience in a related occupation

1.94 2.00 BLS

Long-term on-the-job training

1.03 1.07 BLS

Bachelor's degree

1.70 1.65 Occupational-Share Naïve

Associate degree

0.38 0.45 BLS

Postsecondary vocational award

0.63 0.67 BLS

Moderate-term on-the-job training

2.17 2.52 BLS

Doctoral degree

0.03 0.03 BLS

Master's degree

0.52 0.56 BLS

First professional degree

0.03 0.05 BLS

Short-term on-the-job training

4.87 5.31 BLS

Note: Ties are broken using unrounded data.


Issues evaluating occupational projections

Data compared here were affected by the introduction of the 2010 Standard Occupation Classification (SOC) system which resulted in 81 out of 840 occupations not being comparable between 2006 and 2016. Definitional changes associated with the new classification system may also have had a limited impact on occupations that were deemed comparable.

Coverage of employment changed in 2008 when Employment Projections stopped producing estimates for secondary employment and again in 2014 when unpaid family workers were dropped.

Coverage of occupations changed in 2017 when Employment Projections combined certain occupations in line with its primary source, the BLS Occupational Employment Statistics survey. Details of those combinations can be found at

Return to Projections Evaluation Homepage


Last Modified Date: March 16, 2020