How to Read the Short-Term Occupational Projections Table: A Cautionary Tale
by: David Bullard, Senior Economist
The Occupational Projections Table contains a wealth of data, but interpreting some of the table can be tricky. This article provides descriptions of each of the columns included in the table, as well as examples of some potentially misleading data.
The Base Employment 2016Q2 column contains the estimated employment in Wyoming in each occupation in second quarter 2016 (2016Q2).
The Projected Employment 2018Q2 column reports the projected number of jobs in each occupation in Wyoming in 2018Q2. Employment can grow or decline for many reasons.
The Numeric Change column is simply the difference between the employment level in 2016Q2 and 2018Q2. A positive number indicates a net increase in employment in a given occupation. At the total level, employment is expected to fall by 2,708 jobs. Some occupations, such as registered nurses (SOC 29-1141), are expected to add jobs (135), while others like carpenters (SOC 47-2031) are expected to lose jobs (-226).
The Percent Change column is the numeric change divided by the base employment. It represents the percent change over the two-year projections period. For example, the number of occupational therapy assistants (SOC 31-2011) is expected to grow by 6.5% from 2016Q2 to 2018Q2.
The Growth Openings column can be one of the most difficult to understand. If growth is expected in a given occupation, the number of growth openings is the numeric change. If employment is expected to fall, the number of openings due to growth in that occupation is defined as zero. By definition, the number of growth openings cannot be negative. Each occupation is estimated separately, and then the growth openings are summed to arrive at the various totals. For example, in the major group production occupations (SOC 51-0000), the numeric change is -282, indicating a net loss of 282 jobs. However, the number of growth openings is reported as 52. To arrive at the 52 growth openings, the numeric change for each growing occupation was summed, and zeros were included for each declining occupation.
Since the short-term projections cover a two-year period, the Annual Growth Openings are the Growth Openings divided by two.
The Replacement Openings represent an estimate of the number of job openings that will become available during the two-year period due to individuals in that occupation retiring, leaving the labor force, or changing occupations.
The Annual Replacement Openings are the replacement openings divided by two. This column represents the number of replacement openings available in a single year.
The Total Openings represent the sum of growth openings and replacement openings.
Annual Total Openings are the total openings divided by two and represent the number of openings available each year.
The Education Value column states the “typical education needed for entry” into each occupation. These data are developed by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, 2017).
The Work Experience Value contains “commonly required work experience in a related occupation.” These data are also the result of BLS research.
The Job Training Value reports the “typical on-the-job training needed to obtain competency in the occupation.”
Since none of the columns related to openings reflect the effect of declining employment in occupations, Total Openings may overstate the expected number of jobs available in many occupations. For example, the number of roustabouts, oil & gas (SOC 47-5071) is expected to decline by 76 jobs (see the Numeric Change column). However, the Total Openings column shows 46 openings (based solely on replacement need) and does not take into account the overall expected decline in employment.
Savvy data users will not rely exclusively on any single column of this large table, but remain aware of the expected job losses shown in the Numeric Change column. In many cases, the net job losses (shown in the Numeric Change column) can overwhelm the replacement openings. Some other occupations (besides roustabouts) that fall into this category include carpenters (SOC 47-2031), operating engineers & other construction equipment operators (SOC 47-2073), bookkeeping, accounting, & auditing clerks (SOC 43-3031), first-line supervisors of construction trades & extraction workers (SOC 47-1011), and excavating & loading machine & dragline operators (SOC 53-7032).
It is important to emphasize that there are many sources of uncertainty in any projections. Unexpected changes in energy prices (in either direction) could significantly affect Wyoming’s economy and the number and types of jobs found in the state in the future.
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2017) Employment Projections: Occupational Data Definitions Retrieved on March 8, 2017 from https://stats.bls.gov/emp/ep_nem_definitions.htm target="_blank"