It may surprise you to learn that job losses in the most recent decade ending February 2011 are reasonably comparable to the job losses from 1929-1939. Moreover, if we exclude government and “quasi- government” jobs, the latest decade is the worst ever, by far.
Please consider A Decade of Labor Market Pain by Mike Mandel.
In February 2001, nonfarm payrolls hit their business cycle peak of 132.5 million. Ten years later, the latest data pegs February 2011 payrolls at 130.5 million, a 1.5% decline. To put this in perspective, the ten-year period of the Great Depression, 1929-39 saw a 2.3% decline in nonfarm employment, roughly the same magnitude.
But even that 1.5% understates the extent of the pain for most of the workforce. I divide the economy into two parts. On the one side are the combined public and quasi-public sectors, and on the other side is the rest of the economy. Public, of course, refers to government employees. ‘Quasi-public’, a term I just invented, includes the nominal private-sector education, healthcare, and social assistance industries. I call them ’quasi-public’ because these industries depend very heavily on government funding. For example, social assistance includes ‘child and youth services’ and ‘services for the elderly and disabled’, which are often provided under government contract.
The chart below shows employment growth in the public/quasi-public sector, compared to employment growth in the rest of the economy, with February 2001 set to 100. We can see that public/quasi-public employment rose steadily over the past ten years, and is now up 16%. By comparison, the rest of the private sector is down 8% in jobs over the past 10 years.
Once again, we look at the Great Depression for an analogy. From 1929 to 1939, government employment rose by about 30%. If we back that out, then private sector non-ag jobs fell by 6% over the Depression decade. That compares to the contemporary 8% decline in private non-ag non-quasi-public jobs since 2001. So by this measure, the past 10 years have been worse for the labor market than the decade of the Great Depression.
The first chart below is from the BLS, the second chart below is from Mandel.
Nonfarm Payroll Employment – Seasonally Adjusted Total
The above chart shows the 1.5% drop between February 2001 and February 2011. Note that nonfarm employment is below where it was 11 years ago dating back to February 2000.
The next chart is the one Mandel created.
Public and Quasi-Public Jobs vs. Everything Else
Please see Mandel’s article for a state-by-state breakdown.
Who is Doing all the Whining?
Who is doing all the whining and all the pissing and moaning? The answer of course is those who fared the best in the last decade: the police and fire unions, the teachers’ unions, transit unions, and public unions in general.
Many in private sector fields have been hammered silly with rapidly rising healthcare costs and lower paychecks (assuming they have a job at all). Meanwhile those with the most benefits and those who have suffered the least are the ones unjustifiably bitching to high heavens about how unfairly they are being treated.
Mike “Mish” Shedlock
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