The Final Stats on Jobs in 2012

by Fred Siegmund

The Bureau of Labor Statistics published its January report showing a seasonally adjusted December increase of 155,000 jobs. The increase for the 12 months ending December 2012 is 1.836 million jobs, a respectable – but hardly spectacular – increase for the year. The job totals for 2012 will be subject to review and possible revision next month, but the end of the year totals gives an opportunity to make an assessment of job growth for the future.

During the recession, jobs declined 8.78 million from January 2008 until February of 2010. After the turnaround beginning March 2010, jobs are up 4.78 million to just over 134 million for December 2012. If we have 26 months in a row with 155,000 new jobs, America will have just over 138 million jobs, which will bring jobs in March 2015 up to jobs in January 2008.

Through the recession months, government employment and the share of government employment in total employment continued to rise while manufacturing employment and the share of manufacturing employment in total employment continued to fall. Manufacturing had its highest employment in 1979 followed by nearly unbroken decline until the end of February 2010.

After March 2010, when jobs started to recover, manufacturing and government service reversed their long-term employment trends. Government, including education, lost 546,000 jobs, while manufacturing gained 526,000. In 2012, manufacturing gained 180,000 jobs, while government lost 68,000 jobs.

The unexpected increase in manufacturing helped provide a higher job total for the year ending December 2012. The increase in manufacturing gives a reason to be optimistic for 2013, but unfortunately much of the other 2012 gains came in service sectors that also did much better than their long term trends. For example, wholesale and retail trade added 260,000 jobs for the 12 months ending December 2012, but their average annual increase for the last 22 years including 2012 is 94,000. The last 12 years, including 2012, did not have job gains, but losses that averaged 65,100 a year.

Trade uses computing technology that holds down job growth, but other service sectors like finance, insurance and real estate also have long-term trends with slow growth as a result of computing technology. In the process of recovery from the 2008 recession, all of them did much better in 2012 than their long-term growth rates. Finance, insurance and real estate gained 80,000 more jobs than their long-term trends would suggest.

If all sectors of the economy in goods production, private service providing industries, and government return to growth at their long term trends, then 2013 job growth will have only 1.475 million more jobs, 360,000 below the gains for 2012. It will be a slow year for jobs if that happens.

If manufacturing repeats last year’s gain and adds 180,000 jobs and government does not decline further, while the rest of goods production and service industries grow at their long-term trend, then 2013 with have 1.691 million more jobs; better, but still 144,000 jobs below the 2012 gains.

Health care has been a mainstay of job growth for two decades, but last year’s increase of 391,000 new jobs was below long term trends. Health care will add 477,000 new jobs by December 2013 if health care industry jobs grow at their 1990 to 2012 growth rate of 2.78 percent. Lately, though, health care has slowed down and last year jobs were up only 2.15 percent for the year. The time to assume health care will contribute the largest share of replacement jobs may be coming to an end. Other sectors like manufacturing and professional services will need to play a bigger role in job growth if America can meet the job needs of the future.

The recent decision on federal taxes that was part of the fiscal cliff negotiations will not help job growth. The two percent reduction in social security taxes ends. Social security taxes go up 2 percent, but the new rate schedule for the personal income tax does not reduce rates enough for a reduction in combined federal taxes. Based on the tax rate changes published in the Washington Post, wage earners earning up to $60,000 will pay as much as $1,000 more in 2013 than they did in 2012.

The fiscal cliff solution makes another year with 1.836 million new jobs a doubtful forecast. Americans will need more buying power to keep the job mill going another year. To match last year’s performance for 2013 will be problematic without a continuing recovery in manufacturing, and without an unexpected boost from another service sector or sectors. Expect less.

About the author: Fred Siegmund covers America's jobs as part of work doing labor market analysis and projections for a client base of recruiters, trainers and counselors. Visit him at

Previous post:

Next post: