Some of the shifts in jobs illustrate how recessions accelerate long-term trends. The number of U.S. manufacturing jobs has been declining, and jobs have been migrating regionally for decades.
Overall, "goods-producing" industries, which include manufacturing, construction, logging and mining, accounted for just 18.4 percent of the non-farm payroll jobs in March 2001, or fewer than 1 of every 5. That share shrank to 16.7 percent from that point through December. Meanwhile "service-providing" industries accounted for 81.6 percent of such jobs on the eve of the recession, or more than 4 of every 5, a portion that grew to 83.34 percent.
In the past 45 months, manufacturing has lost 2.5 million jobs, or 15 percent, with many of the cuts concentrated among makers of textiles, computers, electronics and machinery. The headlines were filled with examples: Levi Strauss & Co. closed its last U.S. apparel factory in 2003; Pillowtex Corp., maker of Cannon and Fieldcrest towels, dismissed 6,450 workers in August 2003, in the largest single-day layoff in North Carolina history; Boeing Co. eliminated tens of thousands of jobs as orders plummeted for its commercial aircraft.
Meanwhile, service providers added 2.1 million jobs, growing 2 percent since the recession began.
The service category that posted the biggest gains is what the Labor Department calls "ambulatory health care services," which includes all types of outpatient health services, such as the offices of doctors, dentists, therapists and optometrists and centers that collect blood or provide kidney dialysis or diagnostic testing. These employers added jobs steadily, for a gain of 584,400 jobs, or 13.3 percent.
Educational service providers added 313,600 jobs, a gain of 12.7 percent, as employment grew at colleges, universities and schools of management, technical and trade skills.
"We're moving from a manufacturing-based economy to a knowledge-based economy and the factor of production that gets the best return . . . is education," said Robert S. Silberman, chairman and chief executive of Strayer Education Inc., of Arlington, which more than quadrupled its workforce in the past four years to 820 full-time employees as it expanded its operations.
Strayer offers bachelor's and master's degree programs in business administration, information technology and accounting, primarily to working adults. The company has grown to 35 campuses this year from 12 in 2001 and has increased its online offerings. It expects to serve 23,000 students this year, more than double the roughly 10,000 taught in 2001, Silberman said.
Other shifts reflected the combined effects of the recession and certain short-term shocks, as well as the opportunities that can arise within changing industries. Airlines slashed their payrolls after the terrorist attacks left many travelers afraid to fly and as the recession forced business travelers to cut back on spending.
The air transport industry as a whole lost 124,000 jobs, or 20 percent, in the past 45 months, but low-fare airlines thrived. JetBlue Airways Corp., with about 8,000 employees, has been hiring ever since it began service just five years ago. The carrier plans to add at least 2,700 workers this year.