Post Recession: Some Jobs Gone For Good

The labor market will remain tough for many months to come. But when jobs eventually come back, traditionally strong areas such as health care and education are expected to lead the way. Analysts say weaker ones — such as construction — could take years to return. And many jobs in areas such as autos and newspapers are gone for good.

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The labor market is expected to remain tough for many months. When jobs eventually start coming back, some areas may recover long before others. For example, health care and education could bounce back quickly. Construction jobs, on the other hand, could take years to return. And as NPR's Frank Langfitt reports, there are some fields where jobs are most likely gone for good.

FRANK LANGFITT: It's the week before classes at Maryland's Montgomery College and business at the registration office is booming.

Unidentified Woman #1: My bill says I have a class but I'm not taking it.

Unidentified Man #1: Oh I need to get some transcripts.

Unidentified Woman #1: Sure.

Unidentified Man #2: I was told, if I filled this paper out, I could get my ID now.

LANGFITT: Most sectors of the economy shrink during a recession, but not community colleges like Montgomery. In the last academic year, the college hired more than 200 people. Enrollment for credit is expected to pass 25,000 this fall, an all time high. Vivian Lawyer runs human resources.

Ms. VIVIAN LAWYER (Chief Human Resources Officer, Montgomery College): When the economy is bad, community colleges tend to grow in enrollments because people are coming back to school to shore up their skills in various areas or to retool.

LANGFITT: The college plans to add at least another 20 faculty this academic year.

Professor ANTONIO DEL CASTILLO (Montgomery College, Maryland): My name is Antonio del Castillo. I'm an Associate Professor in Biology.

LANGFITT: Del Castillo is one of Montgomery's recent hires. He used to do government-sponsored research. Then his boss lost funding.

Prof. DEL CASTILLO: He was told that he had to leave that institution, and then all the people that worked for him has to start looking. At that moment in time, I thought that, okay, I need to find something more stable.

Unidentified Woman #2: Call nine one. I think he needs to be here because he is a cardiac patient.

LANGFITT: Another area where jobs are expected to grow is health care. Bill Robertson runs Adventist Healthcare, which has hospitals in Maryland and New Jersey. He says during a recession Adventist continued to hire pharmacists, physical therapists and ultrasound technicians.

Mr. BILL ROBERTSON (CEO, Adventist Health Care): At one of our hospitals, Washington Adventist Hospital, we have one of the largest orientations of new graduate nurses going on. I think we have 24 nursing graduates in orientation right now.

LANGFITT: The nation's population continues to grow and age. To meet those needs locally, Adventist plans to hire another 700 people in the next two years. Robertson says a recession won't stop the growth in health care.

Mr. ROBERTSON: When you look at a 25 or 50 year horizon, which is what we have plan on, we're always looking to say that this is going to be a growing community, and a downturn for a year or two or three does not ultimately change the vision.

LANGFITT: Other job sectors, though, are expected to lag in any recovery. One is manufacturing - technology, global competition, and outsourcing have destroyed jobs in industries such as autos and furniture. John Graham teaches finance at Duke and runs a business-tracking survey with CFO magazine.

Assistant Professor JOHN GRAHAM (Finance, Duke University): Those jobs are unlikely to come back, even when demand picks up because the labor is cheaper outside of the United States.

LANGFITT: Another expected lagger, construction. Josh Bivens works for the Economic Policy Institute, a labor think tank in Washington D.C. He says about 200,000 construction jobs should not have existed in the first place. They were created by the housing bubble. Bivens thinks buyers will have to work through the glut of foreclosed homes before builders can really start hiring again.

Mr. JOSH BIVENS (Economics Policy Institute): It's just going to take time. It's just going to take an economic recovery, but also kind of a natural process of population growth. Actually more people physically needing more homes to live in. And I don't think there is anything that will really speed that up.

Unidentified Man #3: Big layoffs at Morgan Stanley…

Unidentified Man #4: Bear Stearns could start to hand out thousands of pink slips this week.

Unidentified Man #5: The big New York investment bank, Lehman Brothers, has announced they will file for bankruptcy after…

LANGFITT: Aside from housing, the other field that sparked the recession was finance. Innovative products like mortgage-backed securities blew up and brought investment banks to their knees. But Jonathan Shepherd says he's beginning to see a turn around.

Mr. JONATHAN SHEPHERD (Harvard Business School): Everyday I talk to people, who are hiring or looking to hire. Absolutely.

LANGFITT: Shepherd works for Harvard Business School where he hooks students up with financial firms. He says companies have cut so deep, they will have to bring on more staff as the economy improves.

Mr. SHEPHERD: There have been hundreds of thousands of people in the financial services industry who have been let go, so there's clearly room for some significant hiring.

LANGFITT: Shepherd says after crashes, people always ask the same question.

Mr. SHEPHERD: Is finance dead? Will it ever come back? Will anyone ever make any creative innovation? And time and time again, I think the answer is, you know, yes, it comes back; yes, it evolves. Again, I wouldn't bet against the financial services industry.

LANGFITT: Overall, the road to job recovery will be a long one. There are nearly seven million fewer jobs today than at the start of the downturn. And the Center for Economic and Policy Research, a Washington think tank, has this prediction. The unemployment rate will not return to pre-recession levels until 2014.

Frank Langfitt, NPR News, Washington.

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