An Overview of Occupational Growth
by: Lee Saathoff

Occupational Growth can be discussed in two different domains: numeric or actual growth and percent change or growth rate. Both of these growth figures are important and can help lead to a better understanding of what a specific labor market or economy is doing at a certain point in time. These figures can also be looked at as projections figures. This means that we can discuss what the economy is projected to do in terms of numeric growth and/or percent growth. A third figure that is sometimes discussed when looking at annual openings is the replacement rate. The replacement rate is the number of openings produced in an industry or occupation by individuals who quit, retire, get fired, die, or otherwise leave employment. Replacement rates will not be discussed in this publication, but they are important when looking at annual openings.

How are occupational projections produced?

There are two main components that are used to produce occupational projections. The first are the industry projections (see overview of statewide industry projections). The second are the OES (Occupational Employment Statistics) base year employment figures. The OES figures are collected using a yearly survey of businesses. The SIC (Standard Industrial Classification) code that is assigned to the businesses is then correlated with the OES occupations that are found in each business. The industry projections file is then crossed with the OES occupational file using the SIC code as the matching field. After the two files are matched, the projections for the occupations are derived from the ratios in each industry applied to the occupations within that industry. The total for each occupation is then tallied from the individual industry totals. Industries that are projected to decline will have a negative effect on the occupations in those industries and those industries that are projected to increase will have a positive effect on the occupations in those industries. Some occupations can have a net increase of zero even though they are in an industry that is projected to increase because they are also in an industry that is projected to decline. An example of this is occupation 21302. This occupation shows zero numeric growth, but in the Wholesale and Retail Trade industries there are numeric growths of +six and -six, respectively. Through this process, the occupational projections come from the industry projections.

What is numeric or actual growth?

Numeric or actual growth is the number of new positions/jobs that have been or are projected to be produced in a finite length of time. This figure can be either positive or negative depending on what the economy is doing to affect a certain occupation. Appendix II shows all the occupations in order by projected numeric growth.

What is percent change or growth rate?

Percent change is the change in employment from the base year to the projected year in terms of a percentage. Percent growth can sometimes be deceiving if it is used alone without any knowledge of the level of employment. For example, the number one projected growth occupation in terms of percent change is 25199 Computer Scientists, NEC (Not Elsewhere Classified) at 140%. This is an incredible growth rate, but when it is taken into account that the base year employment was five employed and the projected year is only twelve, then it does not look so dramatic.

It is important to look at both numeric growth and percent change together. One without the other does paint a picture of how an occupation or industry is doing, but the picture is not complete until they are used together. Out of the top 50 projected growth occupations by percent change, only seven of them are in the top 50 growth occupations by numeric growth. The top 13 numeric growth occupations are not even in the top 50 percent growth. This is because they have such large quantities of workers in the occupations already that the growth they are making is not that large percent wise, but it is number wise. It depends on what is being looked at that will determine the figure that will have the most emphasis placed on it. When looking for an occupation that will have lots of openings, numeric growth would be the figure to analyze. When looking at occupations that are rapidly expanding, growth rate would be the best figure.

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