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March 2009, Vol. 132, No. 3
Substantial job losses in 2008: weakness broadens and deepens across industries
Laura A. Kelter
As measured by the Current Employment Statistics (CES) survey, total nonfarm employment peaked at 138.2 million in December 2007, coinciding with the official start of the current recession.1 This turning point marked the end of a nearly 3-year employment expansion totaling almost 5.4 million jobs. (See chart 1.) Job growth had slowed during 2007, and then employment fell by 3.1 million (or 2.2 percent) during 2008, with declines in most industry sectors. Furthermore, the job losses were more widespread and severe than during the previous two employment contractions.
Manufacturing, construction, financial activities, and professional and business services had begun seeing job losses or weakened employment growth in 2007, after which they experienced a worsening employment picture during 2008. Consumer-driven industries, such as retail trade and leisure and hospitality, started to cut workers in 2008, and employment declines accelerated during the last several months of the year. Only health care, mining, and government industries continued to add jobs.
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1The Current Employment Statistics (CES) survey is a monthly survey of about 150,000 nonfarm business and government agencies representing approximately 390,000 individual worksites. For more information on the program’s concepts and methodology, see “Technical Notes to Establishment Data Published in Employment and Earnings,” in Economic News Release: Employment Situation (Bureau of Labor Statistics, Feb. 6, 2009), on the Internet at www.bls.gov/web/empsit.supp.toc.htm#technote (visited Feb. 6, 2009). CES data are presented in Current Employment Statistics—CES (National) (Bureau of Labor Statistics, no date), on the Internet at www.bls.gov/ces (visited Feb. 6, 2009). The CES data used in this article are seasonally adjusted unless otherwise noted. The beginnings and endings of recessions are determined by the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER). (See details at www.nber.org/cycles/dec2008.html (visited Jan. 30, 2009).)
Current Employment Statistics
Payroll employment in 2007: the slowdown. — Mar. 2008.
Payroll employment and job openings continued to grow. — Mar. 2007.
Payroll employment in 2005: recovery and expansion. — Mar. 2006.
Payroll employment grows in 2004. — Mar. 2005.
The U.S. labor market in 2003: signs of improvement by year’s end—Mar. 2004.
U.S. labor market in 2002: continued weakness—Feb. 2003.
U.S. labor market in 2001: economy enters a recession—Feb. 2002.
The job market in 2000: slowing down as the year ended.—Feb. 2001.
The job market remains strong in 1999.—Feb. 2000.
Job growth slows during crises overseas.—Feb. 1999.
Strong job growth continues, unemployment declines in 1997.—Feb. 1998.
Employment in 1996: jobs up, unemployment down.—Feb. 1997.
Slower economic growth affects the 1995 labor market.—Mar. 1996.
Strong employment gains continue in 1994.—Feb. 1995.
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