Forty years ago the manufacturing sector employed the greatest share of American workers with 23.9 percent of all jobs. Today, manufacturing is the sixth largest employment sector, accounting for about 9 percent of America’s workforce.
Employment trends in America are gleaned from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and an article for NPR.org by Jacob Goldstein and Lam Thuy Vo examined how employment patterns have changed since 1972.
Regarding the loss of manufacturing jobs, Goldstein and Vo wrote, “America still makes a lot of stuff in 2012, but technology means factories make more stuff with fewer people.”
The authors note that service jobs account for a much higher percentage of total jobs today than 40 years ago. “A particularly big gainer has been education and health services. This makes sense, given the huge rise in health spending as a percentage of total U.S. economy.”
Replacing manufacturing as the largest employer in 2012 was government jobs at 16.6 percent of the workforce. That total is actually down slightly from the 1972 percentage of 18.3 percent.
Second on the list in 2012 is the category wholesale and retail trade, where 15.7 percent of Americans worked last year. That’s up from third on the list and 15.3 percent in 1972.
Third on the list this year and showing a large gain from 40 years ago is education and health services, with 15.2 percent of the workforce. In 1972 education and health services ranked sixth with 6.6 percent of the workforce.
Fourth on the list both this year and 40 years ago is professional business services, though the category has seen significant job growth. This year professional and business services accounted for 13.4 percent of U.S. jobs, compared to 7.4 percent in 1972.
Ranking fifth in 2012 in percentage of jobs is the category leisure and hospitality with 10.2 percent of the workforce. The category was also fifth in 1972 with 6.9 percent of U.S. jobs.
Categories six through 10 for 2012, in order: manufacturing, 9.0 percent; financial activities, 5.8 percent; construction, 4.2 percent, other services, 4.0 percent; transport and utilities, 3.4 percent.
Categories six through 10 in 1972, in order: education and health services, 6.6 percent; construction, 5.4 percent; financial activities, 5.3 percent; transport and utilities, 4.4 percent; media and telecommunications, 2.8 percent.