The Recession Started 4 Years Ago, Guess Which Industry Is Suffering the Most?

On the fourth anniversary of the downturn, two industries account for an outsized share of total job losses


Four years ago this month, the United States entered the great recession. Although it officially ended in June of 2009*, we still haven't come close to fully recovering, as Friday's jobs report reiterated. Since December of 2007, non-farm payrolls in the United States have shrunk by roughly 6.8 million jobs. And as Derek Thompson noted earlier today, at the rate of today's job growth, we could still be a long, long way off from reaching full employment. 

But the recession didn't hit every industry with the same ferocity. Take healthcare, which now employs roughly 1.4 million more people now than at the end of November 2007. Mining and logging has grown by 83,000 workers. Most major industries, though, are still far down from their 2007 peaks. Using Bureau of Labor Statistics data, we've graphed out the changes in several key employment sectors. You can check out the 2007 stats here and the 2011 numbers here

615 Percent Change.jpg

Construction and manufacturing, each down more than 2 million jobs, are the big obvious losers. But to get a proper sense of how poorly they're doing, I isolated the job-losing industries from the left hand side of that graph.

The next chart shows the percent of all job losses contributed by each industry. (The sectors that gained jobs -- the ones on the right hand side above -- aren't included in this data set.) Together, these industries have shed just shy of eight million employees.
615 Total Job Losses.jpg

The percentages aren't a huge surprise: Manufacturing and construction make up more than half of all job losses since the start of the recession. White collar workers in industries such as finance haven't been immune. But the recession and painstakingly slow recovery have absolutely slammed industries traditionally dominated by high school educated males. Both in relative and absolute terms, they've seen the worst of this economy. And four years after things began to slide, those workers are still in a lot of pain. 

*Clarified to to reflect reader comments.

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Jordan Weissmann is a senior associate editor at The Atlantic.

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