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April 2011, Vol. 134, No. 4
Professional and business services: employment trends in the 2007–09 recession
Frank Conlon is an economist in the Office of Employment and Unemployment Statistics, Bureau of Labor Statistics. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Employment in professional and business services fell with the recent slump in the broader economy; the temporary help services industry, which regularly leads fluctuations in aggregate employment, accounted for a large portion of the cumulative job losses
During the most recent recession, 1 from December 2007 to June 2009, employment in the professional and business services industry2 declined by more than 1.6 million, a figure that was second only to the approximately 2.0 million jobs lost in manufacturing. Compared with job losses in the previous 11 recessions, the 2007–09 contraction in professional and business services employment was the largest, in both percentage and absolute number, since the series began in 1939. This dramatic decrease in employment followed 5 years of steady growth: from 2003 to 2007, the industry had averaged an employment gain of roughly 3 percent per year, double the average annual growth rate of private sector employment as a whole.
Many of the same industries that flourished prior to the 2007–09 recession were the main contributors to the job losses experienced by professional and business services during the recession. This article analyzes recessionary employment trends among pro-fessional and business services industries, as well as the contemporaneous movements of related indicators.
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1 Recessions are identified by the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), according to which the most recent recession began in December 2007 and ended in June 2009. The previous two recessions were from July 1990 to March 1991 and from March 2001 to November 2001, respectively. For a complete list of business cycle dates, see “U.S. Business Cycle Expansions and Contractions” (Cambridge, MA, National Bureau of Economic Research, Apr. 4, 2011), www.nber.org/cycles/cyclesmain.html (visited Apr. 5, 2011).)
The data on employment used in this article are from the Current Employment Statistics (CES) survey, a monthly survey of about 140,000 nonfarm business and government agencies representing approximately 440,000 individual worksites. For more information on the survey’s concepts and methodology, see “Technical Notes to Establishment Survey Data Published in Employment and Earnings” (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Feb. 4, 2011), www.bls.gov/web/empsit/cestn2.htm (visited Apr. 21, 2011). To access CES data, see “Current Employment Statistics - CES (National)” (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, no date), www.bls.gov/ces/ (visited Jan. 10, 2011). The CES data used in this article are seasonally adjusted unless otherwise noted.
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