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.

Long-term projections span over ten years, and 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. Long-term projections at both the statewide and sub-state level are developed based off the most recent publicly available Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages data, which typically lags the publication year by 2 years.

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.

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 2021, 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@commerce.nc.gov.

Data definitions:

Industry Code: Industry codes are based on the North American Industry Classification System. Special industries and custom industry groupings begin with "000" or "10." Traditional NAICS industries start at "11."

Industry Level: To aid with aggregating industry employment, each industry level is denoted by a letter (A to E): A= Total Industries; B=Domain (i.e. Goods-Producing); C=Super Sector; D=Sector (2-digit NAICS); and E=Sub Sector (3-digit NAICS). For example, the sum of all "B" level employment should equal level "A" for Total, All Industries unless there is data suppression.

Occupation Code: Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) code.

Occupation Level: To aid with aggregating occupation employment, each occupation level is denoted by a number: 1 = Total, All Occupations; 2 = 2-digit SOC; 4 = 6-digit SOC. The sum of each occupational level may not aggregate precisely due to data suppression.

Star Rating: Star Jobs is a simplified way to identify promising occupations statewide and locally. 1- to 5-stars are assigned based on wages, projected growth rate, and projected job openings. For more information, click here.

Net Change: Difference between projected year and base year employment estimates.

Percent Change: Percentage difference between projected year and base year employment estimates.

Annualized Growth Rate: Year-over-year growth rate over multiple years. Note that this growth rate is not obtained by averaging the year-to-year percentage changes.

Total Exits/Average Annual Exits: Exits are estimated positions based on workers leaving the labor force from this occupation. Total Exits are over the projection period while Average Annual Exits are the Total Exits divided by the number of years in the projection period.

Total Transfers/Average Annual Transfers: Transfers are estimated positions based on workers leaving this occupation for a different occupation. Total Transfers are over the projection period while Average Annual Transfers are the Total Transfers divided by the number of years in the projection period.

Total Openings/Average Annual Openings: Openings from Exits, Transfers, and Change. Total Openings are over the projection period while Average Annual Openings are the Total Openings divided by the number of years in the projection period.

Education Level/Work Experience/Job Training Required: Minimum Educational Requirement, Work Experience, and Job Training to enter an occupation are taken from the BLS’ education and training requirements by detailed occupation.

Annual Wage/Hourly Wage: Based on Occupational Employment and Wage Survey (OEWS) data.

Average Weekly Wage: Average Weekly Wage data was extracted and calculated based on Annual QCEW data and rounded to nearest dollar. Weekly wages are not available for all industries.

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