Academic journal article Monthly Labor Review

Improved Estimates of Future Occupational Replacement Needs

Academic journal article Monthly Labor Review

Improved Estimates of Future Occupational Replacement Needs

Article excerpt

Many people and organizations need information about projected job openings by occupation-openings that result from employment growth or the need to replace workers who leave an occupation. For example, students and vocational counselors need such information to make informed decisions affecting career choices, planners of training programs need it to formulate rational education policies, and personnel specialists need it to focus their recruiting efforts. During the past several decades, information about employment growth has been provided biennially by the BLS employment projections program. While recognizing the importance of replacement needs in estimating j ob openings, BLS stopped developing estimates of such needs in the early 1980's because of concerns about the quality of the data and the methods of developing data appropriate for different users.

In 1990, BLS began an extensive project to review the methods used to develop estimates of replacement needs in the past and to determine whether improved estimates could be developed. This research summary presents an overview of the results of that project.(1)

Most descriptions of the labor market, such as those based on data from the monthly Current Population Survey (cps), are developed from information pertaining to a single point in time that provides a snapshot of current conditions. Individuals are classified as employed, unemployed, or not in the labor force. Employed persons are further identified by occupation. For any pair of snapshots, whether taken a month or a year apart, the number of individuals in each category generally does not change very much. The image thereby projected is one of great stability in the labor market. However, this is practically never the case. During any time period, there is a great deal of movement into, out of, and between occupations. Measuring this movement to develop estimates of separations from occupations requires longitudinal data about workers at two points in time, data that are much less common than snapshots of current conditions. The research in the BLS project focused on the development of procedures that, using available data, would provide the best measure of movements of workers out of occupations over time.

The research concluded that two distinct types of estimates of occupational separations should be developed to meet the needs of all users. The first type of estimate, total separations, would measure all individuals who leave their occupation. The second, net separations, would measure the net movements of experienced workers into and out of occupations. It was found that both measures of separations are best developed using data from the cps, but through different data elements. Total separations are best measured by identifying the experiences of individuals over a year's time, a finding that reinforces research conducted in the late 1970's and early 1980's. By contrast, net separations are best measured by following age cohorts of workers over a longer period of time, a methodology that results in a new approach to developing net occupational separations.

Concepts and definitions

Over the years, a variety of concepts have been used to calculate estimates of occupational replacement needs and job openings. These different concepts result in significantly different estimates of separations for the same occupation that often have confused users of the information. Accordingly, this section presents a brief summary of those concepts, in an effort to dispel whatever confusion might otherwise occur.(2)

Employment growth. If employment is measured at the beginning and end of a given period and is observed to increase, that increase is a measure of employment growth. A positive net change in employment, employment growth creates opportunities for workers to enter an occupation. It results from increased demand for goods and services in the economy and from changes in the occupational structure of industries and is the source of job openings identified by BLS projections. …

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