Frequently Asked Questions
Does BLS project future labor shortages or surpluses?
No. The BLS projections assume a labor market in equilibrium, i.e., one where overall labor supply meets labor demand except for some degree of frictional unemployment. For a discussion of the basic projection methodology, see "Overview of projections to 2020," [PDF] Dixie Sommers and James C. Franklin,
January 2012 Monthly Labor Review.
Furthermore, attempts by some to ascribe shortages or surpluses to our projections are based on an incorrect comparison of the total employment and total labor force projections, two separate and fundamentally different measures. The total employment projection is a count of jobs and the labor force projection is a count of individuals. Users of these data should not assume that the difference between the projected increase in the labor force and the projected increase in employment implies a labor shortage or surplus. For a discussion of labor shortages in the context of long-term projection models, see page 10 of "Employment projections to 2012: concepts and context," Michael W. Horrigan, February
2004 Monthly Labor Review.
How often are the projections updated and where are they
The economic, employment, and labor force projections are updated every other year; the most recent projections are for 2010-20 and were released on the BLS web site in February 2012. The projections also are published in the Monthly Labor Review at the same time as the release.
What is the time horizon for BLS projections?
The projections have a 10 year span. The current projections cover the 2010-20 decade.
Does BLS prepare short-term projections?
No, BLS only prepares 10-year projections. Most states prepare both long- and short-term projections for their state and local areas. See http://www.projectionscentral.com.
What are the fastest growing occupations?
The fastest growing occupations can be found in this table and reflect jobs with the largest rate of change, in terms of percentage.
What are the occupations adding the most jobs?
The occupations adding the largest number of jobs can be found in this table.
What are the fastest growing industries?
The industries with the fastest growth rate can be found in this table and rank the industries with jobs experiencing
the largest rate of change, in terms of percentage.
Are there annual projections or just data for the terminal year?
The projections are available only for 2020.
Do you have projections for states or local areas?
BLS prepares projections only for the nation as a whole.
Projections of industry and occupational employment are prepared by each state,
using input from the BLS National projections. Contact information for State labor market information offices is available at http://www.bls.gov/bls/ofolist.htm.
Do you have employment data and projections from earlier years?
Employment projections from previous years are available in projections issues of the Monthly Labor Review and in archived news releases. Data files for a limited number of previous projections are available on request. Projections for previous periods are not always comparable to the 2010-20 projections, however, because of changes in industry and occupational classifications, historical data revision, and changes in projections procedures.
How accurate are BLS projections?
BLS evaluates its projections regularly and publishes these evaluations in the Monthly Labor Review.
How do the BLS employment projections account for recessions?
The analysis underlying the BLS employment projections focuses on long-term structural change and growth and assumes a full employment economy in the
target year. To the extent that recessions can cause long-term structural change, they may impact the projections. However, BLS does not project recessions.
How were the BLS 2010-20 employment projections affected by the recent recession?
The BLS employment projections are based on analysis of long-term structural changes to the economy, not short-term business cycle fluctuations. BLS does not attempt to project the peaks and troughs of business cycles, and the BLS projections model assumes a full employment economy in 2020, the target year. The 2010 (base year) employment for many industries still had not recovered to pre-recessionary levels when the 2010-20 projections were developed. This low employment, coupled with an expected return to full employment over the 10-year projections period, means faster growth rates and more numerous openings than might have been expected in these industries and their occupations had the recession not occurred.
For a more detailed discussion, see "Overview of projections to 2020" [PDF], by Dixie Sommers and James C. Franklin, in the January 2012 Monthly Labor Review.
Is it possible that an education assignment under the new system will be different from what it was under the prior system?
Yes. The new system assigns a typical entry level education, while the prior system assigned “the most significant source” of education or training. Some
occupations will have a different education level assigned than they did previously.
Why didn’t you include a licensing category in the new education and training system?
We originally proposed adding a licensing category. As we further tested and refined the licensing category, we faced problems in a few areas, such as how to capture occupations where a subset requires licensure either in all states or some states. An additional issue is that states also regulate occupations through less-restrictive forms known as registration and statutory certification—in which a state grants “title” protection to an individual with a certification, and sometimes these forms of regulation are referred to as “licenses.” BLS staff plans to further research this issue in the coming year. Please note that licensing requirements for occupations are fully discussed in the narratives of the occupational profiles in the Occupational Outlook Handbook.
Why didn't you include a certification category in the new education and training system?
We studied certification as a possible category to include in the classification system. We found that certification does not fit into the overall concept of this system, which is to provide information on what is needed to enter and to attain competency in an occupation. Certification is always voluntary and is a recognition provided by a non-governmental body. It can demonstrate competence in occupation-specific skills, job-specific skills, or advanced practice skills. Therefore, certification is generally obtained for purposes of advancement within an occupation, either to a higher level or to move to an area of specialization.
In addition, the term “certification” is often confused with academic certificates received from postsecondary institutions. For these reasons, certification is not included in the education and training classification system. Certification, however, is discussed in the narratives of occupational profiles in the Occupational Outlook Handbook if it is important for the occupation.
Don’t some occupations have more than one way to enter?
Yes, some occupations have more than one way to enter. The assignments under the new system describe the typical education needed to enter, and the typical type of on-the-job training required to be competent. The work experience in a related occupation assignment represents what is commonly considered necessary by employers or is a commonly accepted substitute for formal training. The three assignments complement each other in that they would represent a typical “path of entry” into the occupation, but they are not necessarily equal in importance for entry into the occupation.
When did BLS release the education and training assignments?
BLS published the education and training assignments for each occupation at www.bls.gov/emp in December 2011. The Fall 2011 issue of Occupational Outlook Quarterly contains an article on the new system. These reports do not have projections data associated with the assignments, however. The occupational projections for 2010-2020, released on February 1, 2012, provide employment and job outlook information for each occupation along with the education and training assignments, as well as data on the educational attainment of workers in each occupation.
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Last Modified Date: February 9, 2012