The current U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Employment Projections (EP) program was preceded by a number of separate programs. Development of input-output analysis in the 1940s laid the initial groundwork for EP. The “Occupational Outlook Service,” a predecessor of the modern Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH), was established in 1940 and supplemented with the Occupational Outlook Quarterly (OOQ) in 1957. These early programs largely focused on resource allocation during and after World War II. In peacetime, they sought to offer career information to veterans and other jobseekers, with the first OOH published in 1949. The first set of formal numerical projections was published in the 1960s as part of the Division of Economic Growth. Toward the end of the 1970s, this program merged with others, such as labor force projections, to create the Office of Employment Projections.
Since then, BLS has developed long-term projections of likely employment trends in the U.S. economy. Projections cover the future size and composition of the labor force, aggregate economic growth, detailed estimates of industry production, and industry and occupational employment. The resulting data serve a variety of users who need information about expected trends of economic growth and the effects these trends could have on employment. Data users include individuals seeking career guidance and organizations and individuals offering career guidance resources. In addition, policymakers, community planners, and educational authorities, who need information for long-term policy planning purposes, make use of BLS employment projections, as do states in preparing state and local area projections.
From the mid-1960s to 2019, projections were prepared on a 2-year cycle. Until 1997, BLS developed projections in which the target year always ended in a zero or a five. Projections were prepared every other year, resulting in at least two—and sometimes three—sets of projections being prepared for the same target year. Consequently, projection horizons were as short as 10 years or as long as 15 years. Beginning with the 1996–2006 projections, which were published in 1997, EP began developing projections for a 10-year period, still on a 2-year cycle. In 2011, EP incorporated new benchmark and annual input-output tables produced by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. In 2019, EP started releasing its projections on an annual basis.
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