Jobs

American Jobs, Gained And Lost

The total number of jobs in America fell by nearly two million over the past decade.

But this big-picture stagnation — which occurred as the population grew by about 20 million — masks big shifts, both over time and across different industries.

At the beginning of 2001, there were 132 million jobs in America. Between January of that year and the middle of 2002, the nation lost more than two million jobs — part of the recession that accompanied the dot-com bust.

But in the recovery that followed, the number of jobs in America grew steadily, peaking at nearly 138 million at the end of 2007.

There was growth in the sectors at the center of the boom (finance, real estate), but also across the economy — health care, state and local governments, and the travel and leisure industries were all big winners. Manufacturing was a notable exception.

Then the economy fell apart. By the end of 2009, the number of jobs in America had fallen below 130 million. Almost every sector got hammered, though a few were spared.

Health care fared particularly well, driven by the aging population, funding from steady government sources such as Medicare and the fact that sick people spend money on health care even in tough times.

In 2010, a slow comeback began. But so far, it hasn't been enough to put much of a dent in all the losses. In all, the economy added just over a million jobs last year.

The video's final image shows the tally for jobs lost and gained over the past decade. It speaks to some of the big shifts in the American economy. (Post continues below.)

A decade of jobs in America i i
Jess Jiang/NPR
A decade of jobs in America
Jess Jiang/NPR

Manufacturing lost more than five million jobs, as the sector continued to move toward complex, high-tech products, and away from producing the everyday goods that require huge numbers of workers standing at assembly lines, churning out products.

Construction, still reeling from the real estate bust and a glut of houses that seems likely to persist for quite a while, lost hundreds of thousands of jobs.

The service sector did better — particularly in areas where fewer jobs have been automated. Health care was the decade's big winner, but private education and leisure also made significant gains.

Government jobs also increased over the course of the decade, particularly at the state and local level. But that trend may already be reversing itself. The number of state and local government jobs fell last year. And growing budget constraints and pension pressures mean those cuts are likely to continue.

For more: The figures in this post, and in the video, are based on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. You can dig through the numbers yourself, in lots more detail, here.

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