Good News: The Long Information Sector Job Drought May Finally Be Over

Is the long information sector job drought finally over?

Underneath the surface of the weak November job report, there’s some good news that suggests the 2011 job market may be better than many people expect. One reason: After a decade-long deep slide in jobs, the information sector may finally have hit bottom and started to expand.

Now, you may read that sentence and say: What is that guy smoking? But the fact is that even though we all called this the “Information Economy”, our information industries have mostly been shrinking from 2000 until very recently. This was one of the great disappointments of the past decade, and one of the big reasons why the 2000s were an economic disaster.

Here are the numbers: In 2000 the information sector employed 3.6 million workers.* By 2007, just before the recession started, the number was down to 3 million, and in 2009, the information sector had shrunk to 2.8 million. That’s a 23% decline in 9 years. By comparison, the whole private sector is only down about 2% over the same stretch. (This collapse in information sector employment, of course, was not uniform. Mostly notable wireless telecom (in red) showed a decent job gain from 2000 to 2009.)

But the good news is that the shrinkage of the overall information sector may finally–finally!–have stopped. Take a look at the chart below, which shows employment in the information sector (plus electronic shopping, minus print media).

Despite the continued weakness in the overall labor market, info sector employment has started to creep up. Will the growth last? How much or how fast? We won’t know for a while, but it’s a good sign for 2011.

*According to the government’s category, the information sector includes print publishing; software publishing; motion pictures; broadcasting and cable; telecommunications, wired and wireless; data processing and hosting; and internet publishing, broadcasting, and search. I also adjust the information sector by adding ’electronic shopping’ into the internet publishing category. In the chart I also remove print media.

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About Michael Mandel 126 Articles

Michael Mandel was BusinessWeek's chief economist from 1989-2009, where he helped direct the magazine's coverage of the domestic and global economies.

Since joining BusinessWeek in 1989, he has received multiple awards for his work, including being honored as one of the 100 top U.S. business journalists of the 20th century for his coverage of the New Economy. In 2006 Mandel was named "Best Economic Journalist" by the World Leadership Forum.

Mandel is the author of several books, including Rational Exuberance, The Coming Internet Depression, and The High Risk Society.

Mandel holds a Ph.D. in economics from Harvard University.

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