Are We There Yet? Employment Recovery Uneven
By Jennifer Burnett, CSG Program Manager for Fiscal and Economic Development
In the slowest recovery on record, employment across the country has struggled to get back to prerecession levels. CSG calculations of the most recent data, from April 2014, show national employment has nearly reached that milestone almost five years after the official end of the Great Recession. Growth in employment, however, is not spread evenly across the country; a handful of states are home to the lion’s share of jobs recovered, while losses in the public sector have held back overall growth in employment.
It’s been 59 months since the Great Recession officially ended, and the recovery following it has been the slowest one since official job data was first collected by the U.S. Department of Labor in 1939. In January 2008, employment hit a historic high of 138.4 million. Just over two years later, that figure plummeted to a 10-year low—a loss of more than 8.7 million jobs. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the U.S. is now just 113,000 jobs shy of getting back to January 2008 levels—less than a tenth of a percent away.
Private vs. Public Employment
Private sector employment has been growing slowly—but steadily—since early 2010. From February 2010 to April 2014, private sector employment grew 8.6 percent, an increase of about 9.2 million positions. Employment in the public sector, on the other hand, has moved in the opposite direction.
With the exception of a bump in employment due to Census hiring in 2010, government employment has been declining since mid-2009. Government employment is down 2.7 percent, or nearly 600,000 positions, compared to February 2010 levels. More than half of those losses came from local government, which shed 351,000 positions during the past three-and-a-half years.
While national employment has nearly recovered to prerecession levels and private sector employment has surpassed prerecession peaks, that growth is not spread evenly across states. Only 15 states have gotten back to the peak levels of employment they achieved prior to or during the recession, while another 10 states are 1 percent or less away from peak levels.
From February 2010 to March 2014, the U.S. recovered about 8.3 million jobs. More than one-third of those jobs were in three states—California, Texas and Florida. Employment collectively grew in those three states by more than 3 million during this period. While each of these states has added employment since February 2010, only Texas actually has surpassed its prerecession peak.
Texas hit its highest level of prerecession employment in August 2008. As of March 2014, it had surpassed that figure by 778,500—a 7.3 percent increase. California, on the other hand, achieved its prerecession peak in July 2007, but currently remains 84,300 positions—or 0.5 percent—below that level. Florida remains significantly below—310,000 positions or 3.9 percent—the peak it achieved in March 2007.
Only one state has grown more than Texas during the recovery. Employment in North Dakota has grown by 24.6 percent, or 90,600 positions, since November 2008. On the other end of the scale, Nevada has the furthest to go before it can get back to prerecession employment levels—it remains 6.7 percent below the peak it hit in March 2007.