8 ways the U.S. job market has evolved under Obama
By Christopher S. Rugaber
WASHINGTON, D.C. — When President Barack Obama took office in January 2009 in the midst of the Great Recession, the economy was hemorrhaging jobs. Employers were panicking in the face of plummeting demand and a financial crisis that had frozen credit.
In March 2009 alone, 823,000 jobs disappeared. When the bleeding finally stopped in February 2010, 8.7 million jobs were gone. The unemployment rate hit a painful 10 percent — a quarter-century high — in October 2009.
Eight years later, the job market is in infinitely better shape. The unemployment rate is 4.7 percent. Jobs have been added for 75 straight months, the longest such streak on record.
But many other trends, not all of them positive, have reshaped the job market over the past eight years:
A SMALLER SHARE OF AMERICANS HAVE JOBS
Hiring has been solid yet still hasn’t kept up with population growth. The proportion of Americans with jobs — essentially the flip side of the unemployment rate — dropped a full percentage point under Obama. An aging society has turbocharged retirements. And many workers, especially less-educated men, have become discouraged about finding jobs with decent pay and have stopped looking.
AUTOMATION AND GLOBALIZATION ERASE ROUTINE JOBS
Routine work on factory assembly lines and as office clerks has declined, in some cases lost to computers, robots and inexpensive imported goods. Factory jobs have fallen 2.4 percent since January 2009. The number of people working as office administrators is down 2.5 percent.
MORE HIGH- AND LOW-PAYING JOBS
Those routine jobs typically paid middle-income wages. As they have faded, both higher- and lower-paying jobs have grown faster. The number of jobs in computer networking and software development has soared 42 percent in eight years. Data analysis has enjoyed job growth of 18 percent. On the lower-paying end, jobs at restaurants and hotels have jumped 19 percent.
MOST NEW JOBS GO TO COLLEGE GRADUATES
The ranks of employed college graduates jumped 22 percent under Obama, while the number of employed people with only a high school degree fell 4 percent. That partly reflects demographic trends: Older, less-educated Americans retire and are replaced by younger people more likely to have college degrees. But it also points to rising demand for high-skilled workers.
SLOW PAY GROWTH
Over the past year, average hourly pay has risen 2.9 percent, the healthiest increase in seven years. Yet for most of the recovery since the Great Recession, wages have struggled, growing closer to 2 percent. In a more robust economy, pay gains are typically close to 3.5 percent a year.
Thanks in part to strong hiring gains at restaurants, bars, hotels and retailers, more Americans have part-time jobs. In many cases, they prefer it that way. The number of part-timers who would prefer full-time work has fallen nearly 30 percent under Obama. And the number of people working part-time by choice — a much larger number— has grown 13 percent in the past eight years.
MORE ARE WORKING TEMP AND ‘GIG’ JOBS
Businesses, under pressure to grow profits and counter cheaper competition overseas, have sought to hold down labor costs. Temporary hiring has been one way to do that. Temp jobs skyrocketed 52 percent during Obama’s administration, to nearly 3 million, including at auto plants and hospitals.
YOUNG WORKES COME IN AS ELDERLY RETIRE
The influx of the millennial generation, the largest in the U.S., is changing the face of the working world. They are replacing retiring baby boomers, usually at lower pay, which has held down overall wages throughout the recovery. Millennials have also spurred more companies to adopt tech-style workplaces, with open floor plans, bean-bag chairs, and free food.
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