5 ways the workforce has changed since the Great Recession

For higher education, the Great Recession meant huge cuts to state funding and significant shifts in which academic majors students choose to study.

The Great Recession has also left its mark on the labor market, as Drew DeSilver discusses in a recent post for the Pew Research Center's "Fact Tank" blog. He identifies five major changes in the United States over the decade since the Great Recession:

1: The labor force represents a smaller share of Americans. A smaller share of people are either employed or actively looking for work today (62.7%) than a decade ago (66%). Labor economists attribute most of the decline to Baby Boomer retirements, but also point to other factors such as the skills gap and a trend of students staying in school longer.

2: Workers are more diverse. The share of workers who are white (U.S.-born, non-Hispanic) is smaller today (60%) than it was in late 2007 (65.3%), DeSilver reports. Meanwhile, the share of workers who are Hispanic and the share of workers who were born outside the United States have both grown.

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3: Workers are older. Americans ages 55 and older make up a greater share of the workforce today (22.8%) than they did in 2007 (17.6%). Furthermore, DeSilver points out, this is the only group for which the labor force participation rate has risen since the beginning of the Great Recession.

4: Unemployment lasts longer. The overall unemployment rate is lower is lower than its peak in 2009, but unemployed Americans are more likely to face long job hunts. In 2007, roughly 9% of unemployed people had been unemployed for 52 weeks or more; in 2017, that number has risen to 16.5%.  

5: Service jobs are growing fastest. Broadly, the labor market is shifting toward service-sector industries, like health care and education, and away from manufacturing and construction. Jobs classified as service-providing make up a bigger share of all jobs today (83.9%) than they did a decade ago (81.1%). The jobs growing fastest tend to be those that emphasize both soft skills and highly technical skills, according to a Pew Center analysis (DeSilver, Pew Research Center, 11/30).

More than 2 million job postings ask for this skill. Are you sure your students have it?


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