Which Industries Lost Most Jobs in 2013?

Published: Jan 16, 2014

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As a follow-up to my recent post on the industries that gained most jobs in 2013, I looked at the other end of the BLS data: the industries that shed employees over the year. As with the previous post, I looked at the data two different ways: the industries that lost the highest total number of jobs, and those that suffered the biggest percentage decrease.

Also in line with the previous piece, each approach gives us a slightly different take on the data: those industries that shed huge percentages of the workforce are likely to be the ones in which jobs are not going to come back, perhaps as a result of societal or technological shifts, or outsourcing. Those where the lost jobs represent a smaller overall percentage of industry employees, however, may well be experiencing temporary setbacks or retrenchment as a result of the business cycle. (Of course, neither of those explanations fits every firm on the list--feel free to let us know your own take on the data in the comments field below).

Here, then, are the 20 industries that shed the highest percentage of their workforce in 2013*:

RANKINDUSTRYJobs Lost, 2013% Change
1    Couriers and messengers-100,700-15.52%
2    Clothing and clothing accessories stores-174,400-10.76%
3    Department stores-130,000-7.93%
4    Lessors of nonfinancial intangible assets-1,600-6.67%
5    Nonstore retailers-27,400-5.72%
6    Motion picture and sound recording industries-20,600-5.46%
7    Apparel-7,400-5.02%
8    Textile product mills-5,400-4.58%
9    Communications equipment-4,800-4.41%
10   State government education-104,100-4.16%
11   Monetary authorities - central bank-700-4.02%
12   Local government education-318,300-3.93%
13   General merchandise stores-126,400-3.81%
14   Printing and related support activities-17,100-3.73%
15   Federal, except U.S. Postal Service-64,600-2.95%
16   Furniture and home furnishings stores-12,600-2.68%
17   Commercial banking-34,700-2.64%
18   Miscellaneous store retailers-20,400-2.47%
19   U.S. Postal Service-13,800-2.27%
20   Educational services (PRIVATE)-74,400-2.15%


And here are the 20 industries that shed the most workers in 2013, by headcount*. 

RANKINDUSTRY% ChangeJobs Lost, 2013
1    Local government education-3.93%-318,300
2    Clothing and clothing accessories stores-10.76%-174,400
3    Department stores-7.93%-130,000
4    General merchandise stores-3.81%-126,400
5    State government education-4.16%-104,100
6    Couriers and messengers-15.52%-100,700
7    Educational services (PRIVATE)-2.15%-74,400
8    Federal, except U.S. Postal Service-2.95%-64,600
9    Commercial banking-2.64%-34,700
10   Depository credit intermediation-1.66%-28,900
11   Nonstore retailers-5.72%-27,400
12   Credit intermediation and related activities-0.98%-25,600
13   Motion picture and sound recording industries-5.46%-20,600
14   Miscellaneous store retailers-2.47%-20,400
15   Nursing care facilities-1.16%-19,400
16   Printing and related support activities-3.73%-17,100
17   U.S. Postal Service-2.27%-13,800
18   Furniture and home furnishings stores-2.68%-12,600
19   Child day care services-1.32%-11,500
20   Electronics and appliance stores-1.52%-8,200


As you can see, cuts to government spending at both state and federal level have had an impact on the lists--with the majority of spending cuts apparently falling on teaching positions. While those are jobs that may well return with an upturn in tax revenues (population growth data dictates that the number of teaching jobs should probably be expanding over the long-term), some of the other data is less heartening. It's clearly not a great time, for example, to be launching a career in retail. While the economic situation is likely still playing a role in depressing sales, the ongoing shift to online retail means that many of the jobs lost in physical stores will not be coming back. Additionally, the decline in areas like the Postal Service and messenger and courier-related positions are likely indications of larger societal trends that have largely been driven by technology.

Finally, while those same trends may be part of the reason for the decline in jobs in the motion picture and sound recording industries over the past year, the decline feels especially stark in the midst of Oscar buzz season--a time where the industry's successes (and excesses) tend to grab the headlines.


Related: Which Industries Created Most Jobs in 2013?


*A quick note on the data: the BLS nests its data, so that, for example, Accommodation is a sub-industry in the larger Accommodation and Food Services category, which itself is contained in the overall Leisure and Hospitality category. To get a better sense of market conditions, I chose to screen out the larger industry classifications and to focus on the "lowest" levels (Accommodation, rather than Leisure and Hospitality), except where doing so would have caused confusion or a discrepancy in the data. The full BLS data table can be found here.