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August 2011, Vol. 134, No. 8
Employment dynamics over the last decade
Caryn N. Bruyere, Guy L. Podgornik, and James R. Spletzer
Caryn N. Bruyere, Guy L. Podgornik, and James R. Spletzer are economists in the Office of Employment and Unemployment Statistics, Bureau of Labor Statistics. Email: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, or email@example.com.
Business cycle movements in BED and JOLTS data suggest that the two series complement each other; during the onset of the 2007–2009 recession, BED gross job gains and JOLTS hires fell simultaneously while BED gross job losses and JOLTS separations diverged
The 2007–2009 recession was the longest and most severe post-World War II recession. As dated by the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), the recession was 18 months long, lasting from December 2007 through June 2009. Prior to that, the longest post- World War II recessions were the 1973 and 1981 recessions, both 16 months long.
The employment losses associated with the 2007–2009 recession also were the largest of any post-World War II recession. Twenty-six months after the recession began, total private employment was 7.6 percent lower than it was at the start of the recession.1 Prior to this recession, the largest employment loss in any post-World War II recession was 6.0 percent, posted 11 months after the start of the 1948 recession. Looking at the four most recent recessions reveals that the maximum total private employment losses were the aforementioned 7.6 percent for the 2007–2009 recession, 3.5 percent for the 1981 recession, 3.0 percent for the 2001 recession, and 1.8 percent for the 1990–1991 recession. The time series of total private employment for the 4 years following the onset of the most recent four recessions are presented in chart 1. The severity of employment losses in the most recent recession relative to other recent recessions is clear.
This article examines the underlying dynamics of the employment losses associated with the 2007–2009 recession. The data graphed in chart 1 summarize the net employment losses that originate from the hiring, quit, and layoff decisions of more than 8.5 million establishments and more than 100 million workers in the private sector. One measure of the underlying employment dynamics is to simultaneously count how many jobs are being created by establishments that are opening or increasing their employment and how many jobs are being lost by establishments that are closing or decreasing their employment. The sum of these two statistics will be the net employment change. Another measure of the underlying employment dynamics is to simultaneously count how many workers are being hired and how many workers are leaving their current employer. Again, the sum of these two statistics will be the net employment change. Both of these measures of the underlying employment dynamics of the labor market can be examined with data from two programs conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, the Bureau): the Business Employment Dynamics (BED) program and the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS).
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1 The total private employment statistics in this paragraph are from the Current Employment Statistics (CES) data published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. (See "Current Employment Statistics – CES (National)," http://www.bls.gov/ces (visited Aug. 10, 2011).).
Business Employment Dynamics
Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey
Business employment dynamics: annual tabulations.—May 2009.
Business employment dynamics: tabulations by size of employment change.—April 2009.
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