It’s Jobs Friday tomorrow – the day when the Labor Department reports on how much net new employment the U.S. economy either gained or lost during the previous month (in this case, June). It’s also the day when I report on job and wage gains or losses in the manufacturing sector. To shed some more light on the upcoming data, I decided to look more closely at what kinds of employment has risen and fallen in industry since the Great Recession struck more than nine years ago.
The big takeaways: First, non-supervisory and production manufacturing workers took a much bigger employment hit during the downturn than their supervisory counterparts, and than their “blue-collar” counterparts in the private sector as a whole. Second, this pattern has held during the current recovery. Here are the numbers:
When the Great Recession officially began, at the end of 2007, non-supervisory workers comprised 72.20 percent of the nation’s total manufacturing workforce of 13.746 million, and supervisors and managers made up the remaining 27.80 percent. By the time industry hit its employment bottom, in March, 2010, the supervisory share was up to 29.91 percent, and the production share had fallen to 70.09 percent.
That may not sound like a huge change, but it means that 19.12 percent of the sector’s non-supervisory jobs were lost during the recession – nearly twice as great a proportion as the 10.36 percent net reduction in manufacturing supervisors and managers.
This imbalance, moreover, has continued during the recovery. As of last month’s Labor Department data (for May, which is still preliminary), 62.12 percent of the net jobs lost in manufacturing management during the slump had been regained. The figure for non-supervisory workers is only 30.89 percent – less than half the amount.
Overall private sector trends have been much different. During the recession, the share of net private sector supervisory and non-supervisory jobs lost was very similar – 7.48 percent versus 7.58 percent. During the recovery, the gap has widened, but is still considerably smaller than that for manufacturing. Specifically, since the private sector’s February, 20101 employment bottom, supervisory employment is up 14.92 percent, and non-supervisory employment is up 13.31 percent.
The possible implications merit considerable attention. For example, do these data suggest that America’s manufacturers are relatively satisfied with the layers of management they’ve been carrying lately? Or do they signal that industry has been lagging in automating these positions? Are the numbers a sign that manufacturers believe that supervisory employees are more productive than the rest of their workers? If so, why has manufacturing’s productivity growth been lagging recently at least as much as the rest of the economy’s?
From another standpoint, these results might mean that middle-skill jobs haven’t been under outsized pressure in America lately, contrary to many claims, but that they are in manufacturing.
More research of course is needed on all these fronts. And I’ll be providing analysts, reporters, and RealityChek readers with updated figures tomorrow.