Have lost jobs finally returned?

It was widely-reported Friday that private-sector job growth, at long last, finally topped its pre-recession record high.

Does this mean all the jobs lost in the Great Recession have finally been recovered? No, far from it!

Left out of the media stories are other data from Friday’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) monthly jobs report that are far more revealing than just one number.

Private-sector job growth always gets top billing, but it’s only a subset of the total jobs picture in the United States. When thinking about recession job recovery, other meaningful numbers must be considered:

  • Public-sector employment
  • Total nonfarm jobs
  • Total civilian employment
  • Population growth

Last month, private-sector job growth beat its pre-recession level by 110 thousand jobs. That’s good news. However, virtually every other measure of job recovery tells a totally different story.

The most inclusive jobs tally of all, total civilian employment, reveals the United States has a long way to go before it returns back to full employment.

Public-sector employment

BLS: Monthly jobs report for March 2014

BLS: Data  from the monthly jobs report for March 2014

There are 738 thousand fewer public-sector workers than in January of 2009, before the recession.

The 500 thousand temporary census worker spike in 2010 is not counted. If included, public-sector job losses would be a lot more.

A fascinating factoid about public-sector employment over the last 10 years is that Bush, a Republican, presided over a an expansion of big government employment while Obama, a Democrat, has presided over a reduction in government employment.

A maximum of 748 thousand public-sector jobs were lost in the recession between January 2009 and July 2013. The public-sector has just barely began its recovery.

Total nonfarm jobs

There are 437 thousand fewer total nonfarm jobs today than at its peak in January 2008, even after accounting for the 110 thousand more private-sector jobs being touted in the media right now.

Total nonfarm jobs from the employer survey is the sum of private-sector and public-sector jobs.

Maximum nonfarm jobs losses in the recession were 8.7 million between January 2008 and February 2010.

Total civilian employment

Worst of all, there are 853 thousand fewer people employed today in the United States than before the start of the recession in November of 2007!

The BLS conducts two job tally surveys each month. One is the employer survey, the other is the population survey.

This final employment tally comes from the more comprehensive population survey. It is calculated from 60 thousand direct-contact monthly interviews.

The population survey job total doesn’t get as much publicity as total nonfarm jobs because it has a larger error estimate. However, it is used to calculate the all-important unemployment rate.

Private -sector employment, on the other hand, comes from the smaller employer survey. It tallies employment records that businesses are required to submit each month. The employer survey accounts for about 138 million jobs. Private-sector employment alone accounts for only 116 million.

The population survey, though, accounts for 146 million jobs. Neither survey includes military personnel.

Oddly, considering it is a bigger survey, the maximum number of total civilian job losses in the recession were 7.6 million between November 2007 and November 2010. That’s 1.1 million fewer jobs lost than reported for nonfarm jobs.

Population growth

Since November of 2007 the working age population in the United States has grown by 14.3 million, according to this month’s BLS jobs report.

The population survey collects that and other data that’s used to calculate the unemployment  rate.


The sobering reality is there are 854,000 fewer jobs today, despite that there are 14.3 million more working-age Americans than in November of 2007.

In essence, the better part of a million more jobs still need to be created before catch-up is complete.

Given that, it’s no wonder long-term unemployment is so high and that President Obama’s job creation plan has degenerated into extending long-term unemployment benefits and raising wages for those lucky enough to have jobs.


About azleader

Learning to see life more clearly... one image at a time!

Posted on Apr 6, 2014, in BLS, economics, Economy, Government, Job Creation, Jobs, Jobs Reports, news, Opinion, Politics. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. “The sobering reality is there are 854,000 fewer jobs today, despite that there are 14.3 million more working-age Americans than in November of 2007.”

    Wow! That is sobering!

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