Employment Projections

The Labor and Economic Analysis Division (LEAD) of the North Carolina Department of Commerce prepares projections of employment growth by industry and occupation for the state and sub-state areas. Employment projections are widely used by North Carolina’s workforce, educational, and economic development partners for their planning in workforce development, programs and budgets, public policy, and career exploration activities.

The latest data available are the 2018-2028 Employment Projections. The long-term projections are revised every two years to maintain currency and incorporate economic changes that occur in the state and local areas. Statewide short-term projections are for a 2-year period and are updated annually.

The Statewide 2018-2028 Long-Term Employment Projections were developed over the March 2020-July 2020 period using historical data through 2018. The Sub-state 2018-2028 Long-Term Employment Projections were developed over the November 2020-May 2021 time period using historical data through 2018. These projections utilize a wide variety of models to determine long term industry trends, which in turn impact the occupational projections. The projections methods and assumptions were developed by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and Projections Management Partnership. In light of the current pandemic, the effects of COVID-19 were not included in the North Carolina’s 2018-2028 projections due to the BLS guidance as noted below:

"Long-term projections are intended to capture structural change in the economy, not cyclical fluctuations. The pandemic may cause new structural changes to the economy, but it is too soon to be able to incorporate those impacts into the 2019–29 projections...subsequent projections will incorporate new information on economic structural changes as it becomes available."

The Projections Management Partnership, who provides technical and substantive guidance for states producing projections in consultation with the Bureau of Labor Statistics, has also recommended to not incorporate potential impacts of COVID-19 to the long-term employment projections.

Data Sources and Methodology

Projections are prepared using the methodology, software tools and guidance developed by the Projections Managing Partnership (PMP) in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Labor. The long-term industry and occupation projections are produced every two years while the short-term projection is prepared every year. Sub-state areas are prepared biannually with a focus on the Prosperity Zone sub-regions.

LEAD utilizes industry employment data derived from the Enhanced Quarterly Unemployment Insurance (EQUI) dataset. It is the most complete and timely source of monthly employment and quarterly wages information by detailed industry and county. The data contains a quarterly count of employment and wages report that is sent from employers based on the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) code. Employment data on uncovered industries within the Unemployment Insurance (UI) program is collected from other sources such as Current Employment Statistics (CES), Census Bureau, and Railroad Retirement Board. The EQUI dataset also forms the base for federal data programs through the BLS.

The employment data passes through multiple phases of data processing and analysis. Historical data is first cleaned to ensure consistent formatting and validity then aggregated by NAICS for all detail levels. The data is also aggregated from the county level to sub state areas and statewide.

The second phase involves importing the historical data into the industry projections system. The industry projections system has multiple estimation models. The analyst chooses the model that best fits the historical data among the included shift-share, time series and regression models. Outside sources of information are also valuable in the projections process. Industry expert opinion, current events, and objective national and regional input all play a role in producing a reasonable estimate. Economic indicator variables, such as population or retail sales, are used in the projection process after analyzing the historical data series to determine which variables could be used to explain the particular industry historical data series. These variables become an integral portion of the projection models.

Lastly, the collection and analysis of the industry-staffing pattern is examined. An industry-staffing pattern is the ratio of the employment in each occupation to the total employment in the industry. Data used in the creating of the staffing pattern is collected from the Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS) program. Micro data from OEWS is imported into the Projections Suite Software to produce an industry-occupation matrix that transforms the industry employment projections into occupational employment projections.

Previous Changes in Projections Methodology

In 2018, LEAD implemented a major change in our Projections Methodology that impacted the way that openings were measured. Now, total openings in national, statewide, and sub-state levels more accurately account for the way people work and change jobs and will impact North Carolina’s projections going forward. A detailed explanation of these changes are described in the article, "Recent Changes in Projections Methodology", published to the LEAD Feed blog.

If you have further questions about these changes or the methodology used in the employment projections process, email us at lead@nccommerce.com.

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