LIANE HANSEN, host:
This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Liane Hansen.
The century's first decade was a tough one for workers. In 2000, the tech stock bubble burst, leading to job losses for legions of technology and telecom workers. Then, the country slammed into the 2001 recession. After a jobless recovery, the decade ended with a brutal recession that has erased another 7 million jobs. So will the new decade be any better for workers? All this week, NPR will explore that question on MORNING EDITION. Here to discuss the series "New Jobs for a New Decade" is senior business editor Marilyn Geewax. Happy New Year, Marilyn.
MARILYN GEEWAX: Hi, Liane. Happy New Year to you, too.
HANSEN: Before we consider the next decade, where did the jobs go during the past one?
GEEWAX: You know, we never seem to know what to call this first decade of the century. It's technically the aughts, but for workers it's been more like the uh-ohs. In this past decade, we've seen the number of private-sector jobs fall. They actually went away. We went from roughly 109 million jobs to 108 million private-sector jobs. And that is literally the first time since the Labor Department started tracking payroll employment about 70 years ago that we've had a decade with a net job loss in the private sector.
To a large extent, that loss reflects the big increases we've seen in productivity. Companies are just a lot more productive because they've figured out all kinds of ways to eliminate labor by using more efficient machines.
You know, when I was a kid growing up in Youngstown, Ohio, the steel mills there employed huge numbers of laborers. But those jobs are gone. If you go to visit a steel mill today, you will hardly see a soul there. Those jobs are just being done now by computers and all kinds of advanced equipment. And that's good for profits, But it's not so great for the workers. And of course, we have also seen a lot of manufacturing and tech work moved overseas.
HANSEN: Bad news for the past year; got any good news for the New Year?
GEEWAX: Well, we are trying to figure that out in this new series. Economists and certain political leaders will all say the same thing, that we really need to create new jobs and do it fast, or this economy is just not going to perform well. People can't afford their homes if they don't have jobs, so that makes the foreclosure crisis worse. They can't buy cars if they don't have jobs, and that makes the auto industry worse. People won't have money to invest in retirement.
You really - to get back to a genuinely solid economy, you have got to have job growth. And the problem is that right now, the labor market is so weak that we're going to have to have years, literally years of just slow, steady building even to get back to where we were before this recession began in '07. And what we're finding is that most of the economists, when we talk to them, say it's going to be 2013, maybe 2015 before we get back to a healthy market.
HANSEN: That's pretty grim news. But there must be growth in some areas. Is there any hope for new jobs?
GEEWAX: Well, in this new series that'll be airing on MORNING EDITION, we do take a closer look at several industries that hold promise for new jobs. For example, one of our reporters, Chris Arnold, who's up in Massachusetts, he went to visit this old Polaroid film factory. And you know, that's a plant that should be closed up. But instead, it's humming with business. And right now that's, because the new company is using the old machinery and even some of the old Polaroid workers to make this film-like solar panel that can be built into windows. So they took an old factory, and they're figuring out ways to move it into the new decade with new jobs.
And we have other business desk reporters who are going to take a look at jobs in health care, technology, financial services. And then at the end of the week, we're getting an important, new report. On Friday, the Labor Department releases its December numbers, so we'll see just exactly how tough or not of a year this was for workers. And we have a lot of interesting data about jobs at NPR.org.
HANSEN: Marilyn Geewax is NPR's senior business editor. Thanks a lot, Marilyn.
GEEWAX: Oh, you're welcome, Liane.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.