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Economy in Brief

"BED" Data Show Fewer Job Gains, but Job Losses Fall to All-Time Low
by Carol Stone November 18, 2011

There is job growth, despite the subjective impressions among observers that there is not.  Yesterday (November 17), yet another such indicator was reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).  Their quarterly Business Employment Dynamics (BED) series was published for March 2011.  Granted, there is a long lag in this compilation, but it is a count of private sector jobs, not a sample.  These data are taken from the quarterly submissions of firms for the unemployment insurance program, the same data collection effort that produces the benchmark figures for the monthly establishment employment data.

In the three months from December 2010, 6,338,000 jobs were added at business establishments, while 6,086,000 jobs were lost, for a net gain of 252,000. Both of these figures are down from the previous quarter, although as evident in the first graph, the number of job gains has generally recovered from the recession lows.  More significant is that the number of job losses not only extended the downtrend of the post-recession period, but reached an all-time low in the 19-year history of these data.  As a colleague suggested on seeing the smaller numbers of layoffs, "the bleeding has stopped".

Surely, the employment situation remains tenuous, as the accompanying tally of establishments shows that 1,777,000 of them had job gains, but 1,789,000 establishments lost jobs.  The relative sluggishness of job gains has resulted from a continuing decline in the opening of new establishments; in the three months to March, there were 340,000 new establishments, down from 388,000 in the previous quarter and only modestly more than the recession low of 333,000 in the first quarter of 2009.  There is some growth in the number of establishments that are expanding.  The numbers of contracting or closing establishments are both well below recession highs, but they have stopped falling over the last three quarters.

There is much discussion currently that "small business" is the job engine.  It is the case that job gains at small businesses are big; in Q1, firms (not establishments) with fewer than 50 employees added 2,931,000 jobs, more than 55% of total job gains at all firms.  However, job losses at those companies ran to 2,836,000, 57% of all job losses counted by firms.  Over the last four quarters, large firms with 250 or more employees have actually averaged the largest net gains, 188,000 per quarter versus 105,000 for small firms.

These "BED" data are contained in Haver's USECON database.  A state breakdown appears in the REGIONAL database.  The national data include industry detail.


Seasonally Adjusted, 000 March 2011 Dec 2010 Sep 2010 June 2010 March 2010
Gross Job Gains 6338 7009 6685 6969 6246
  % of Employment 5.9 6.6 6.3 6.6 5.9
Gross Job Losses 6086 6427 6480 6248 6500
  % of Employment 5.7 6.1 6.2 5.9 6.1
Net Change 252 582 205 721 -254
Establishments with Gains 1777 1837 1779 1802 1706
Establishments with Losses 1789 1779 1797 1772 1875
Net Change by Firm Size:
1-49 Employees 95 74 14 236 -177
50-249 Employees 120 87 72 211 7
250 Employees or More 85 341 89 239 -43
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