Which industries had the best job growth in 2011?

at 03:08 PM ET, 01/06/2012

Earlier today, Ezra published the headline numbers from the year in the labor market: The U.S. economy added 1.9 million private-sector jobs and lost 280,000 public sector jobs in 2011. But let’s break it down further: Which sectors improved the most — and least — over the course of the year?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, professional and business services — which includes everything from law firms to call centers — leisure and hospitality, health care and private education, were among the sectors that had the most significant uptick in job growth. Retail steadily improved, while manufacturing also did pretty well, though job growth was flatter.

In the public sector, by contrast, things went from bad to worse as budget cuts forced government at all levels to make layoffs. The financial sector stayed largely stagnant, and information started to stumble, though the big drop in August 2011 was most likely an anomaly due to striking Verizon workers. The graph atop this post shows the changes across industries, with employment in January 2011 as the baseline.

That said (or graphed), even sectors that added jobs steadily throughout 2011 still have a long way to go to bounce back from the recovery. Construction, manufacturing and retail all shed huge numbers of jobs during the height of the recession. Interestingly, the financial activities sector that was the original cause of the crisis shed far fewer jobs by comparison. This next chart shows the absolute change in employment since January 2008:

Viewed that way, the construction and manufacturing sectors clearly have a long way to go.

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