March 2014

Nonfarm employment continued its road to recovery in 2013


In 2013, the rate of growth in average hourly and weekly earnings outpaced inflation as measured by the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers.3 As a result, real earnings for all employees rose over the year.

Industries with the largest job gains in 2013

In December 2013, the 12-month diffusion index for private sector employment stood at 70.5, indicating that job growth was widespread among industries. An index value of 50 or more indicates that more industries are adding jobs than losing them. Over the year, private sector employment increased by 2.4 million (+2.1 percent); this increase was similar to the prior year’s growth. About three-quarters of the gain occurred in four major industry sectors (see figure 4 and table 1), three of which—professional and business services, leisure and hospitality, and education and health services—also contributed the largest number of jobs in 2012. Another major contributor to the total private employment gain in 2013 was retail trade, which added more jobs than education and health services over the year. Combined, professional and business services, leisure and hospitality, education and health services, and retail trade make up about half of total nonfarm employment.

Table 1. Annual employment changes in selected industry sectors, seasonally adjusted, 2011–2013
Industry12-month percent change12-month change in level (in thousands)

Total nonfarm,331

Total private,365

Mining and logging



Residential building

Residential specialty trade contractors


Durable goods

Wood products


Motor vehicles and parts

Nondurable goods


Wholesale trade

Retail trade

Motor vehicle and parts dealers

Food and beverage stores

Financial activities

Professional and business services

Professional and technical services

Computer systems design and related services

Management and technical consulting services

Administrative and waste services

Temporary help services

Education and health services

Health care

Ambulatory health care services


Nursing and residential care facilities

Social assistance

Leisure and hospitality

Arts, entertainment, and recreation

Food services and drinking places



Federal, except U.S. Postal Service


U.S. Postal Service


State government


Local government


Source: Current Employment Statistics data, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Business-driven employment gains

Professional and business services added 677,000 jobs in 2013, growing at a slightly faster pace than during the prior year. By October 2012, this industry sector had recovered the number of the jobs it had lost between December 2007 and August 2009. As 2013 came to a close, employment in professional and business services had expanded to 791,000 above its prerecession employment level.

Within the sector, temporary help services contributed about one-third of the 2013 employment gain. Employment growth in the industry accelerated to 8.9 percent over the year (see figure 3). The other major contributors to employment gains within the professional and business services sector occurred in services to buildings and dwellings, in computer systems design and related services, and in management and technical consulting services, which each added about 60,000 jobs over the year.

Computer systems design and management and technical consulting lost relatively fewer jobs during their recent employment downturns, 2.2 percent and 2.8 percent, respectively. Moreover, these two industries have been among the fastest growing within professional and business services since the end of the recession. As a result of the robust recoveries in these industries, the number of computer systems design and management jobs and technical consulting services jobs were back up to their previous highs by July 2010 and November 2010, respectively, and continued to expand through 2013.

Consumer-driven employment gains

Employment trends in retail trade and in leisure and hospitality often coincide with consumer demand, income, and expectations for the future. Several economic statistics related to the consumer indicated economic growth and improved confidence in 2013. Among these positive indicators were a 10.8-percentage-point increase in the Consumer Confidence Index over the year and growth in disposable personal income and retail sales (see table 2).4


3 “Consumer Price Index – January 2014” news release (Bureau of Labor Statistics, February 20, 2014), The Consumer Price Index (CPI) is a measure of the average change over time in the prices paid by urban consumers for a market basket of consumer goods and services.

4 Consumer Confidence Index,, (Accessed Feb. 12, 2014) ; National income and product account tables, “Personal income and its disposition,” table 2.1 (Bureau of Economic Analysis, January 30, 2014),

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About the Author

Kara Sullivan

Kara Sullivan is an economist in the Office of Industry Employment Statistics, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.