(This is an update to my November post about US job losses. For more information about where I got my data, please see that post.)
The US job market is definitely still sliding. Back in December I crunched some numbers to see how bad the job losses were as a percentage of the total number of jobs. Here’s what it looks like now that we have two more months of bad news.
Historical Job Losses
Here are the job gains and losses since 1960.
We’ve now had three months whose drop is nearly that of the single largest drop in December 1974, as is shown on this table of the top ten greatest monthly losses.
September 2008 isn’t on the list after its preliminary numbers were revised. Now October 2008 is on it instead, and November 2008’s non-preliminary numbers are worse than before.
Now let’s look at job loss as a percentage of the jobs that could be lost. That is, take the number of jobs lost in a given month and divide that number by the jobs you started out with in the previous month.
As before, the shape of the graph is about the same, but the fluctuations are now larger earlier in time. Here’s the top ten worst months by percentage of jobs lost.
The bottom of our list is filling up with recent months.
These are still all one-month drops, and the data shows a lot of single-month drops that are surrounded by gains. How does 2008-2009 compare to other runs of job losses? Between 1960 and now there have been seven times that we’ve lost jobs for four or more months in a row.
|Jan 2008 – Jan 2009||13||-3,498,000|
|Aug 1981 – Dec 1982||17||-2,838,000|
|Mar 2001 – May 2002||15||-2,202,000|
|Nov 1974 – Apr 1975||6||-2,164,000|
|Jul 1990 – May 1991||11||-1,621,000|
|May 1960 – Feb 1961||10||-1,256,000|
|Apr 1980 – Jul 1980||4||-1,159,000|
What a difference two months makes. Through November, we hadn’t lost as many jobs since January 2008 as we had from November 1974 to April 1975. Now we’ve lost far more than that. On sheer number of jobs alone, we’re in our worst run since 1960. What about job losses as a percentage of the number of jobs that existed before the losses?
|Aug 1981 – Dec 1982||17||-2,838,000||-3.10%|
|Nov 1974 – Apr 1975||6||-2,164,000||-2.75%|
|Jan 2008 – Jan 2009||13||-3,498,000||-2.53%|
|May 1960 – Feb 1961||10||-1,256,000||-2.29%|
|Mar 2001 – May 2002||15||-2,202,000||-1.66%|
|Jul 1990 – May 1991||11||-1,621,000||-1.48%|
|Apr 1980 – Jul 1980||4||-1,159,000||-1.27%|
I’d still rate the 1974-1975 recession worse, based on this list and the fact that the job losses there were sustained over a mere 6 months. But the situation’s bad, and not getting any better. Two months ago I said, “While we’ve experienced worse recessions, given another four or five months of this and we could move into the top spot across the board.” It may not take four months at the rate we’re going.