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1996 | 08 | 23 | Articles | The Wall Street Journal | Business | Economics
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The Wall Street Journal
August 23, 1996
Labor Market Has Rebounded In Recent Years, Study Says
By STEWART UGELOW
Staff Reporter of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

Over 71% of workers whose jobs were eliminated in the past three years found new ones by February, the Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics said.

From January 1993 to December 1995, an estimated 8.4 million workers were displaced from their jobs, including 3.8 million long-term workers who had held their jobs for at least three years, the bureau said. Displaced workers are defined as people 20 years or older who have lost their jobs because their plant or company closed or moved, their positions or shifts were eliminated or there was insufficient work for them to do.

Of those 8.4 million workers, roughly six million had successfully found new work by February, when the survey was conducted. Some 16% of those workers remained unemployed, however, and 13% had stopped looking for new jobs and left the labor force. By comparison, 67% of workers in the bureau’s last worker-displacement survey, which was conducted in February 1994 and included the 1991 recession, were able to find new work, while 21% were unemployed.

In signs that the labor market has rebounded since then and that the effects of downsizing may have slowed, 618,000 fewer workers lost their jobs from 1993 to 1995 than in the 1994 survey, and displacement among long-term workers fell 15%.

"We’ve created about 10 million new jobs. It’s been a strong, strong labor market recovery," said economist Audrey Freedman, president of Audrey Freedman & Associates in New York.

Since 1993, 44% of displaced workers lost their jobs because of plant closings. Roughly 24% said there was insufficient work, while nearly a third said their jobs were eliminated. Over 56% said they didn’t receive advance notice that they were losing their jobs.

Nearly three out of 10 displaced workers came from the manufacturing sector. But downsizing took its toll among white-collar workers as well, said Joseph E. Stiglitz, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers.

"White-collar workers represent a much larger share of those displaced. The share of manufacturing, while large, continues to decline," he said.

But it remains easier for laid-off managers and other white-collar workers to find new work. Nearly 80% of managers were in new jobs by February, while only 64% of operators, fabricators and laborers had been rehired. In part that reflects the changing nature of the economy, but analysts have noted that it is easier for white-collar workers to find new jobs because of a greater number of outside contacts and a wider range of skills.

One worrisome trend that surfaced in the survey was that more than half of workers took new jobs that paid them less, including nearly a third who accepted a job that paid them 80% or less of what they previously had been earning. "The steady upward wage movement that was our wonderful future has stalled," Ms. Freedman said.

In a separate report Thursday, the Labor Department said initial claims for state unemployment benefits rose 6,000 last week to 327,000. The four-week moving average, a closely watched barometer of labor-market trends, rose 1,500 to 314,000. The figures are adjusted for seasonal variations.