Melissa Block talks with Justin Wolfers, professor of economics and public policy at the University of Michigan, about what types of jobs the U.S. economy has added in the recovery.
Copyright NPR. View this article on npr.org.
MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:
So with 114,000 jobs added last month, we wondered where those jobs are, what sectors. For some answers, we turn to Justin Wolfers, professor of economics and public policy at the University of Michigan. Professor Wolfers, welcome to the program.
JUSTIN WOLFERS: Pleasure to be here.
BLOCK: The numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that health care is leading the way in terms of job creation - 44,000 of those jobs were health care jobs added in September. What other sectors are showing job growth?
WOLFERS: So health care is doing very well. Transportation's doing well. We're also starting to see - manufacturing's done exceedingly well, not just - not this month in particular but over the run until last couple of years - slowed a little this month. And we're starting to see hints that construction might be turning around and that would be really good news to the few - to those blue-collar men back to work.
BLOCK: You mentioned manufacturing. What is the trend that you've been seeing there?
WOLFERS: So manufacturing is a sector that's pretty much been in decline since the 1960s, and the interesting thing through this recovery is it's been strengthening. A couple of the recent monthly numbers coming out of manufacturing have been some cause for concern. But it's been a long time since we've seen manufacturing job growth as strong as we've had over the last couple of years.
BLOCK: And we do hear Mitt Romney saying today, though, that the country has lost over 600,000 manufacturing jobs since President Obama took office. Is that number correct?
WOLFERS: Fully, that's some tricky math right there. What you saw with the great recession when it hit the financial crisis, which, of course, occurred under President Bush's watch, that decimated manufacturing. That continued through the first year, pretty much, of Obama's time in office. But over the past three years, manufacturing has been on a pretty strong growth trend. And again, that's not quite unprecedented but very unusual.
BLOCK: We've been hearing about housing recovery, at least in some parts of the country. Do you see that reflected in these numbers?
WOLFERS: So not quite yet. What we do see is that where construction workers - we've been losing construction jobs for a big part of the beginning of the downturn. (unintelligible) losing those jobs, but some of the forward- looking indicators, things like asking prices and so on, look like they're moving up. And so I think we'll see construction start to follow.
BLOCK: And who generally, as you look broadly at these numbers, who generally is feeling these jobs?
WOLFERS: It's a mixed bag. This is a broad base recovery. So it's helping men. It's helping women. It's helping African-Americans. It's helping whites. It's helping Hispanics. We've seen men gain a few more jobs relative to women, but that's partly because the downturn hurt men a little bit more relative to women.
BLOCK: Curious to hear you say that it's helping blacks and Hispanics because while the unemployment rate fell to under 8 percent, it's apparently little change for Hispanics. That rate is over - nearly 10 percent. It's much higher for African-Americans. It's over 13 percent. Are the jobs that are being created, for some reason, jobs that are not benefiting these particular groups? What accounts for that?
WOLFERS: So you don't want to take a noisy number, the unemployment rate, and then cut it down into these specific groups because then you just get a lot of statistical noise. We're looking at what happened month to month. So let's take longer-term trends. And what we know and what we've seen through this recovery is economic recovery has actually really helped those who need it the most. There are big differences in unemployment rates across groups. As you say, blacks and Hispanics have higher unemployment rates. So do high school dropout. But just as the recession hurt those groups more, the recovery is helping those groups more, bringing them back into the labor force.
BLOCK: We also heard today that there were upward revisions of numbers that came out this summer, 44 - 40,00 jobs more in July, 46,000 more in August according to these revisions. Explain what happened there.
WOLFERS: Yeah. This is huge. Economists had spent much of the past few months worried that through the summer, the U.S. economy had slowed. And it turns out what had happened is that data slowed, the economy hadn't. The way they collect the employment numbers is firms send in reports of how many people are on their payrolls. Those are bunch of firms that were busy hiring people. And they were too busy to send in those forms. And so their hiring wasn't reflected in the earlier estimates. Now they're in, and we see that over the past three months, employment's really been growing at quite a healthy clip. And healthy enough to drag down the unemployment rate.
BLOCK: OK, Professor Wolfers, thanks so much.
WOLFERS: A pleasure.
BLOCK: That's Justin Wolfers, professor of economics and public policy at the University of Michigan.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.