Life and Death in the Labor Market


The Wall Street Journal recently listed the Top 10 Dying Industries, via research firm IBISWorld. Some industries didn’t just see temporary decline during the recession – some won’t recover and will slowly (or quickly) disappear. IBISWorld’s data format is a little different than ours, and its categories are somewhat obscure, but we thought it would be interesting to pull together a similar table with the associated job data.

With one major exception, all of these industries have seen some shakeup. But job loss by itself doesn’t tell the full story. Wired telecommunications carriers lost the most jobs, but are tied with newspaper publishing for the second smallest percentage change on the list. This is probably because these are entrenched industries and will take longer to become totally obsolete. Contrast those industries with photofinishing. Photofinishing has been a smaller industry all along, but its percent loss is at 68%. Consider the last time you looked at snapshots that weren’t digital, and then say a little prayer for the photofinishing industry.

Description 2001 Jobs 2010 Jobs Change % Change
Wired Telecom. Carriers 1,038,230 709,179 -329,051 -32%
Mills 487,344 208,526 -278,818 -57%
Apparel Manufacturing 273,650 127,175 -146,475 -54%
Newspaper Publishing 428,659 289,997 -138,662 -32%
DVD, Game & Video Rental 167,526 84,442 -83,084 -50%
Record Stores 84,884 30,416 -54,468 -64%
Photofinishing 66,170 20,901 -45,269 -68%
Manufactured Home Dealers 43,203 19,430 -23,773 -55%
Formal Wear & Costume Rental 19,889 12,217 -7,672 -39%
Video Postproduction Services 26,098 26,319 221 1%


The one industry on this list that is not like the others is video postproduction services. As we mentioned earlier, there’s not an exact relationship between our industry groups and IBISWorld’s, so where it has found overall decline we’ve found slight growth. Here’s a look at our overall fastest-declining industries since 2001:

Description 2001 Jobs 2010 Jobs 2001-2010 % Change 2001-2010 Change 2009-2010 Change
Crop and animal production 3,060,000 2,630,246 -14% -429,754 -11,754
Professional Employer Organizations 798,710 432,936 -46% -365,774 -6,154
Wired Telecommunications Carriers 1,038,230 709,179 -32% -329,051 -31,331
New Single-Family Housing Construction (except Operative Builders) 849,104 526,926 -38% -322,178 -57,059
Department Stores (except Discount Department Stores) 857,007 562,392 -34% -294,615 2,786
Temporary Help Services 2,349,389 2,125,113 -10% -224,276 284,107
New Car Dealers 1,118,633 902,006 -19% -216,627 -3,062
Postal Service 866,747 698,630 -19% -168,117 -8,185
Nonresidential electrical contractors 767,556 609,549 -21% -158,007 -47,931
Scheduled Passenger Air Transportation 560,105 409,277 -27% -150,828 -2,988


This table shows some pretty major decline in several industries. “Crop and animal production” along with “new single family housing construction” stand out. The interesting one on this list is “temporary help services.” That industry shows overall decline of over 224,000 jobs, but this amazing comeback from 2009-2010 where it gains over 284,000 jobs. It ends up with the smallest percentage decline on the list, 10%. However, if we look from 2001-2009, it would top the list here, with a loss of over 508,000 jobs, or 22% decline.

The industry with the largest percentage loss over that period, “professional employer organizations,” shows 46% decline. That industry, a provider of leased employees typically for human resources management, has shown steady decline since 2003. While that decline looks to have slowed recently, it hasn’t stopped. We’ll have to wait for more data to see what happens.

Is There Life in Manufacturing?

Before we get to the better news, let’s look at a quick reminder about what manufacturing has been doing over the past 10 years. From 2001 to 2010 the manufacturing sector lost 4.7 million jobs nationally. Pretty dismal. However, there are industries within the sector that show growth. If we look from 2001-2010 the top 10 fastest-growing manufacturing industries are.

Description 2001 Jobs 2009 Jobs 2010 Jobs 2001-2010 2009-2010
Wineries 27,531 47,117 46,850 19,319 -267
Perishable Prepared Food Manufacturing 24,584 36,785 36,962 12,378 177
Oil and Gas Field Machinery and Equipment Manufacturing 48,327 61,698 59,673 11,346 -2,025
Ship Building and Repairing 92,336 103,526 100,841 8,505 -2,685
Surgical and Medical Instrument Manufacturing 107,547 115,938 115,721 8,174 -217
Ethyl Alcohol Manufacturing 3,272 9,797 9,708 6,436 -89
Plastics Packaging Film and Sheet (including Laminated) Manufacturing 5,879 11,782 12,302 6,423 520
Digital Printing 20,894 27,531 27,308 6,414 -223
In-Vitro Diagnostic Substance Manufacturing 13,444 19,916 19,458 6,014 -458
Spice and Extract Manufacturing 16,126 20,708 20,980 4,854 272


This still isn’t the good news. As the table demonstrates, most of the industries showing high growth from 2001 to 2010 have slackened considerably from 2009 to 2010, and many of them have declined. We would hope to be seeing some hint of recovery in these industries, but instead we’re seeing loss.

To zero in on industries showing current growth in the manufacturing sector, we’ll look at the top 10 manufacturing industries showing the most growth from 2009 to 2010.

Description 2001 Jobs 2009 Jobs 2010 Jobs 2001-2010 Change 2009-2010 Change
All Other Plastics Product Mfg. 400,046 260,516 264,562 -135,484 4,046
All Other Motor Vehicle Parts Mfg. 167,487 106,257 109,069 -58,418 2,812
Automobile Mfg. 168,403 94,904 97,424 -70,979 2,520
Travel Trailer and Camper Mfg. 36,231 23,190 25,347 -10,884 2,157
Motor Home Mfg. 17,612 9,473 11,525 -6,087 2,052
Motor Vehicle Metal Stamping 111,209 55,426 57,470 -53,739 2,044
Wet Corn Milling 9,185 8,127 10,166 981 2,039
Motor Vehicle Seating and Interior Trim Mfg. 65,601 40,325 42,194 -23,407 1,869
Iron and Steel Mills 118,583 85,200 86,837 -31,746 1,637
Motor Vehicle Transmission and Power Train Parts Mfg. 96,132 53,644 55,109 -41,023 1,465


As you run over this list you’ll probably get the takeaway pretty quickly. The lesson of this table is that the federal auto manufacturing bailout had an immediate positive effect. In an already declining industry sector the bailout has enabled auto manufacturing to recover, very slightly, after a long period of decline.

Of the three industries on this list not directly related to auto manufacturing (all other plastics mfg., wet corn milling, and iron and steel mills) only wet corn milling showed growth from 2001 to 2009. This means that nine of the top 10 manufacturing industries that have grown from 2009 to 2010 are industries showing a sudden turnaround, without a growth trend in place. Because these correlations are so close, we took a quick look at the relationship between auto manufacturing and iron and steel milling in our input-output model and did not find a strong industry tie. The same was true for auto manufacturing and all other plastics mfg.

Life vs. Death

So where do we go from here? First we looked at dying industries. Then we looked at industries within a dying industry sector that are recovering because of massive infusions of money from the government. Is it all really that depressing out there?

The following table shows high growth industries looking into the future. We applied a filter to get industries growing beyond than the national average, percentage-wise, and then chose the top 10 projected to add the most new jobs from 2008 to 2014.

Description 2008 Jobs 2014 Jobs Change % Change
Local government 14,425,000 14,905,114 480,114 3%
Crude Petroleum and Natural Gas Extraction 556,883 987,818 430,935 77%
Home Health Care Services 1,294,652 1,697,041 402,389 31%
Offices of Physicians (except Mental Health Specialists) 2,439,113 2,834,694 395,581 16%
Investment Advice 855,566 1,220,851 365,285 43%
Portfolio Management 731,703 1,088,517 356,814 49%
General Medical and Surgical Hospitals 4,312,784 4,669,173 356,389 8%
Private Households 1,623,184 1,922,073 298,889 18%
Services for the Elderly and Persons with Disabilities 663,261 936,620 273,359 41%
Federal government, civilian, except postal service 2,069,474 2,327,756 258,282 12%


Local government tops the list, adding nearly a half million jobs. Its percentage growth is the lowest on the list, however. On the other hand, crude petroleum and natural gas extraction is projected to grow by around 430,000 jobs from 2008 to 2014 and projects 77% growth. Health industries make an excellent showing. Between home health care services, offices of physicians, general medical and surgical hospitals, and services for the elderly and person with disabilities, there’s a total projected addition of 1,427,718 jobs. Also notable: two finance industries show up here, investment advice and portfolio management, both of them indicating that after the crash folks are interested in getting some outside advice on their holdings. 

Much of this growth appears to be driven by demographics: the huge baby boomer generation is reaching senior status, and the U.S. is projected to continue its overall population growth fueling the need for growth in local government and health care to serve growing demand.

Of course, this isn’t a comprehensive look at industry growth. Everyone knows that the health sector is growing, and we’re starting to spot other reasons for hope. But the truth is that the US economy recently underwent a major shakeup, and hasn’t totally bounced back yet. As far as manufacturing goes, there’s not a ton of good news right now. There is some life out there. But we’ve still got a long way to go.

Rob Sentz is the marketing director at EMSI, an Idaho-based economics firm that provides data and analysis to workforce boards, economic development agencies, higher education institutions and the private sector. He is the author of a series of green jobs white papers.

Illustration by Mark Beauchamp