In Last Decade, a Lack of Job Growth in the Private Sector
By FLOYD NORRIS
Published: August 7, 2009
For the first time since the Depression, the American economy has added virtually no jobs in the private sector over a 10-year period. The total number of jobs has grown a bit, but that is only because of government hiring.
The accompanying charts show the job performance from July 1999, when the economy was booming and companies were complaining about how hard it was to find workers, through July of this year, when the economy was mired in the deepest and longest recession
since World War II. For the decade, there was a net gain of 121,000 private sector jobs, according to the survey of employers conducted each month by the Bureau of Labor Statistics
. In an economy with 109 million such jobs, that indicated an annual growth rate for the 10 years of 0.01 percent.
Until the current downturn, the long-term annual growth rate for private sector jobs had not dipped below 1 percent since the since the early 1960s. Most often, the rate was well above that.
As can be seen from the charts, there were some areas of strength in the economy. Health care jobs continued to grow, particularly jobs that involve caring for the elderly. Home health care employment rose at an annual rate of 5 percent, a rate that indicates a total gain of more than 60 percent. On an annual basis, that was twice the overall rate for health care of 2.4 percent a year.
There were also job gains in education and in a host of service industries, including lawyers (0.7 percent a year), accountants (0.9 percent) and computer systems designers (2.4 percent). The field of management and technical consulting leaped at an annual rate of 5 percent.
But while designing computers and related equipment was a growth field, building them was a very different story, as the manufacturing shifted largely to Asia. The number of jobs making computer and electronic equipment in the United States fell at an annual rate of 4.4 percent, substantially more than the overall decline in manufacturing jobs, of 3.7 percent.
That was a better showing than that of the automakers, which shed jobs at a rate of 6.7 percent a year. By contrast, auto dealers cut jobs at a much slower rate of 1.3 percent a year, although that rate may accelerate later this year as General Motors
dealerships are closed.
Hard as it may be to believe, the consumer economy of the United States actually lost retail jobs over the decade, at a rate of 0.2 percent. There were fewer people working in food stores. But the category of general merchandise stores — like Wal-Mart
and Costco — showed an impressive gain of 1 percent a year, even though the category also includes department stores like Macy’s
, where the number of jobs has fallen.
For a good part of the decade, the construction business was a growth industry. But there are now fewer jobs there than there were a decade ago.
The total picture is of an economy that has changed in substantial ways over the decade. After the recession ends, job growth is likely to resume. But there is no indication that the secular trend toward a more service-oriented economy will reverse. A decade from now, there are likely to be still more jobs at architecture and engineering firms (up 1.2 percent a year over the last decade) and at bars and restaurants (up 1.8 percent a year). But few expect that manufacturing will reverse its long decline as a major employer in the United States.